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The Ideal Spring Training Story

At the risk of being a killjoy, I’m already sick of Spring Training coverage. The players show up way too soon and their every move is monitored far too closely. We used to get by on a feature, some notes and a picture of somebody swinging in the cage. On Sunday we’d get a column and maybe a sidebar to the feature, the notes and — if we were really lucky — two pictures. Didn’t matter if the Mets were supposed to be good or not so good; it got me going like no thousand tweets do today. The compact package was perfect for an annual ritual in which nobody kidded themselves that anything was actually going on.

Something like this, repeated daily, is all I really need between now and the middle of March…

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brooklyn-born Pete Falcone is thrilled to be making his homecoming at Shea Stadium this season and expects the familiar surroundings will tap from his left arm the talent that scouts agree has always been there but has been slow to translate to results on the mound.

“It’ll be great to pitch in front of family and friends,” said the 25-year-old southpaw the Mets acquired from St. Louis over the winter in exchange for outfielder Tom Grieve. “I’m really confident that this is going to be a big year for me.”

His manager agrees with that sentiment. “Pete’s always intrigued me,” said Joe Torre of his Brooklynite neighbor. “We get Pete on the right track and have him alongside Swannie and Zach, we’ll have some of the most formidable pitching in the division.”

Falcone says pitching coach Rube Walker has already helped him adjust his grip, which he believes will make his signature curveball an even tougher proposition for left-handed hitters.

“It’s just a matter of getting comfortable,” said Falcone, who pitched to a disappointing 2-7 mark with a 5.76 ERA for the Redbirds last year. “We have a great bunch of guys here and I just want to fit in.”

Torre — who laughed when asked if he and Falcone might carpool to Shea together — couldn’t have said it any better himself.

METS ‘N’ PIECES: Doug Flynn is experimenting with a heavier bat…Kevin Kobel is working on a sinker…the club announced Fireworks Night will be in June…Torre promised Kobel and Dwight Bernard will each get a long look this spring…a noticeably trimmer Dan Norman arrived 10 pounds lighter, owing his weight loss to cutting back on potatoes…traveling secretary Lou Niss was bundled up against a particularly stiff wind during the morning workout… Elliott Maddox and Lee Mazzilli are getting over colds…Skip Lockwood shagged fly balls alongside fellow veterans Nelson Briles and Wayne Twitchell…several Mets are sporting mustaches…prospect Butch Benton put good wood on the ball, sending a number of Joe Pignatano’s batting practice tosses to the warning track…Ed Kranepool got a cat…Pignatano suggested Krane name him Smoky for the old Pirate pinch-hitter Smoky Burgess, in recognition of the first baseman’s own excellent pinch-hitting skills, but Kranepool says he hasn’t decided on a name…Willie Mays likes the legs on reserve outfield candidate Gil FloresJoel Youngblood is nursing a sore rib cage, which he said he aggravated unloading his rental car…Torre is thinking about carrying three catchers, possibly opening a slot for both Ron Hodges and Alex Trevino…Channel 9 will televise the first Mets-Cardinals game from Al Lang Stadium next Saturday…the Cardinals will be the home team, with the clubs flipping roles the next day…the following day’s Grapefruit League action will be broadcast over WMCA (570 AM)…youngster Neil Allen was late for workouts after driving to the Payson Complex minor league HQ instead of Huggins-Stengel Field, where Met big leaguers work out, but Torre said the live-armed righty wouldn’t be fined…“He better not let it happen again, though,” the skipper warned…John Stearns brought three gloves to camp, hoping to increase his versatility…Tim Foli is an uncle for the second time…rookie Kelvin Chapman continues to impress in the infieldthird base coach Chuck Cottier won the annual team fishing contest by reeling in a 12-lb. red grouper…Stearns was runner-up…Sergio Ferrer was excused from drills early so he could keep a dental appointment…Bruce Boisclair took a few swings from the right side but cautioned switch-hitting’s probably not in his future…Willie Montanez modeled a sharp new suit in the clubhouse.