MIAMI -- Not since Jose Reyes have the Mets employed a starting position player as fast as Eric Young Jr. -- that much is clear. But unlike Reyes, who was at times hesitant to steal bases even in obvious situations, Young has proven to be an ultra-aggressive and creative baserunner.
Take Tuesday, for example. After walking to lead off the fifth inning, Young noticed that Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and catcher Jeff Mathis were not paying him much heed. So he executed a delayed steal on Mathis' throw back to the mound, catching the battery by surprise and sliding into second base safely.
A day later, Young pulled off an even more unorthodox feat, going first to third on a groundout. As Miami third baseman Placido Polanco corralled Daniel Murphy's shot to the left side and fired across the diamond, Young glanced quickly in Polanco's direction before bolting to third. Safe again.
"You definitely want to be aggressive," Young said. "You want the other teams to be on their feet, knowing that you're going to be aggressive. Obviously that aggression, there is a risk. But sometimes the other team might get in panic mode and throw the ball away, just because they know you might be looking to take the extra base."
Young said that he has always played that way, though he is perhaps a wiser baserunner now than in the past. Studying other team's tendencies, Young understands when he can afford to take a risk and when he might be better served with prudence.
Most times, he chooses the risk.
"In my mind-set, with my speed, I'm either going to be safe or I'm going to bring out the best in their defender, because they've got to make a perfect throw and a perfect play to get me out," Young said. "That's the way I look at it is it's not necessarily a mistake on my behalf. The other team's just going to have to make a perfect play. And if they make a perfect play, you tip your cap."
Young's speed has given the Mets a dimension that they have lacked since the days of Reyes. In addition to compiling 14 stolen bases in 36 games since joining the Mets, the outfielder has consistently taken extra bags on his teammates' hits and outs.
"One of the things that's probably gotten Eric Young to where he is today is his daringness on the bases, and using that quickness and that speed to his advantage," manager Terry Collins said. "There's going to be times where he's going to try to challenge somebody and they're going to throw him out, but you've got to force the defense to make a play."
Despite sore hamstring, Wright in lineup
MIAMI -- Though David Wright entered Thursday's finale at something less than full strength, there was never any question over whether he would play against the Marlins despite a sore right hamstring.
"He came in early as he always does, got his treatment and said he feels good," manager Terry Collins said. "So he's in there today."
Collins indicated after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Miami that Wright was a lock to play, with the third baseman reasoning that most players endure various aches and pains this time of year. But Wright's injury appears to be more than a minor scratch or bruise; he clutched his right leg after stealing second base in the ninth inning Wednesday, then received significant treatment after the game.
Still, Wright was back in the lineup the next morning, batting third and playing his usual third base. Collins said that between the All-Star break, a scheduled team off-day next Monday and Wright's personal day of rest last Sunday, the third baseman should be strong enough to produce despite his injury.
Wright first experienced right hamstring tightness over the weekend in Washington, which Collins attributed to heat and dehydration. But the pain grew more acute during his stolen-base attempt at Marlins Park.
"He's very honest with me when he talks, and he said, 'If I can't go, I'll say something,'" Collins said. "He's not going to go out there and not be able to play up to his capabilities, because he knows how important he is to this team. If he's not playing well, all he's going to do is take the rest of us with him. He's aware of that.
"He understands himself better than anybody. So I have to trust his opinion and what he says. He says he's ready to go."
Wright has appeared in 104 of the Mets' 106 games this season, entering Thursday's play with a .308 average, 15 home runs and 17 stolen bases.
Parnell expects to be ready for Friday
MIAMI -- The Mets arrived at Marlins Park on Thursday unsure of their closer situation for the second day in a row. Bobby Parnell was dealing with a bout of neck stiffness, according to manager Terry Collins, and was unavailable -- though ultimately unneeded -- in the 3-0 loss.
"He had a stiff neck the other night," Collins said. "I don't know if he slept wrong or what it was, but he came in the other day with a stiff neck and spent the game getting worked on."
Parnell ultimately pitched in that game Tuesday evening, working around a two-out walk to nail down his 22nd save in 26 chances with a 2.16 ERA. But the 28-year-old woke up the next morning feeling stiff, and he was unavailable in part because he had pitched three days in a row.
When asked what caused the injury, Parnell paused.
"Pillows?" he guessed.
Though Collins remained unconvinced late Thursday afternoon, Parnell said he expected to be ready to go for Friday night's game against the Royals at Citi Field. If he is not, right-handers LaTroy Hawkins and David Aardsma are the Mets' ninth-inning alternatives.