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Trouble in River City

While the Mets have been taking a week or so off from their winning ways, Stephanie and I have been looking forward to our own vacation. Oddly enough, we had the same idea they did for when it comes time to take a break from working. We're gonna go to St. Louis.

We won't be there for a few months. The Mets, unfortunately, have decided it would be fun to try to pitch professionally and hit consistently — or perhaps continue to do not enough of either — in the home of the twice-defending National League Central division champion Cardinals right away.

We're going because we want to check out the new ballpark and revisit our favorite Midwestern chain restaurant. What's the Mets' excuse? This is very poor planning on their part, a total foul-up of logistics. When you've been stumbling, stammering and stinking up Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the last place you want to try and freshen up is in St. Louis.

Where are the freaking Marlins when you need them?

Tom Glavine won't be afraid of Albert Pujols even if I will be and Steve Trachsel should be and Jose Lima needn't bother. He should be afraid of David Eckstein and work his way down the lineup from there. I'm more worried about Lima than I am Pujols, actually. I've seen Pujols punish the Mets plenty before. I'm just getting used to Lima Time coming on our time. Would prefer not to, but it's an occupational hazard.

(Aside for literal thinking: Lima's last top-notch National League start — his last Senior Circuit notch of any kind — came against the Cardinals of Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds in the 2004 National League Division Series [1]. So you never know…but, really, sometimes you do.)

Here's a thought that others have had, but I'll pretend I just came up with it: Let's get Aaron Heilman back into the rotation. Let's stretch him out and put him on the mound by the end of the week. There. Done.

Didn't feel this way two months ago [2], so why the about-face? It's not two months ago. It's not two weeks ago. Besides the extended absence of Victor Zambrano, the unknown return date of Brian Bannister and the refusal of Mike Pelfrey to step into an experience machine? Let's call it intellectual consistency. If there's nothing wrong with inserting a starter into the bullpen to get a team through the post-season (and there isn't), why not do the inverse to not deny yourself a trip to the post-season?

Yes, Heilman's an asset in the bullpen. A tremendous asset. And maybe when Bannister comes back and Pelfrey's ready and Barry Zito swings by for the stretch run, it would be a good idea to bank that asset. But for now, liquidate a little. Heilman is the Mets' third-best starter and their third-best reliever. At this moment for where this team is (on a 2-5 slide; down two starters; one game from second place; in St. Louis), starting is a better use of his right arm than relieving.

It breaks up a pretty good thing in the pen, but antsy times call for ad hoc measures. Let's assume Wagner is Wagner, Sanchez isn't Mike DeJean and Jorge Julio…well, it's a lot to assume, but the Mets seem to lug around eight or nine relievers at any given moment. If that doesn't allow them to plug a hole for a couple, three starts with a semi-proven arm like Heilman's (thus avoiding tapping Lima and counting on Gonzalez), then why bother with the Bells and Bartolomes and whoever is up or down today, I forget. In other words, do what you have to do. You have to do something.

When we're in St. Louis, we'll be doing Steak 'N Shake [3]. I love that place. It's the West Wing of burger, chili & shake joints. I highly recommend the Mets visit it this week if they have to be in St. Louis at all. Are we sure they have to?