Mets 14, Diamondbacks 1

Hard to pick which is the more encouraging sign from the Mets’ demolition of the Diamondbacks Tuesday evening — the continued production manager Willie Randolph is getting from a motley assortment of call-up and back-ups, or the solid, economical performance of the erratic Victor Zambrano.

(catcher-suddenly-turned 1B Mike Jacobs, receiving a punch in the hand from his skipper after taking Claudio Vargas deep in the fifth inning)

On the former point, no one should be surprised that David Wright and Jose Reyes are coming into their own as offensive forces (and if the latter could learn to walk even just 5 more times a week it would make a huge difference — for a guy who can wreck so much havoc on the basepaths to have such a low OBP is inexcuseable). But back in March, any thoughts of the Mets contending did not go hand in hand with projections that Ramon Castro, Victor Diaz or Jae Seo would play starring roles. And, to be fair, I’ve lost track of the number of times Cliff Floyd has made exceptional plays in left field, all coming from a player whose retirement talk in 2004 was greeted with enthusiasm by this writer.

D-Backs fans are pissed that P Claudio Vargas didn’t run out a grounder in the third inning. Perhaps they can swap him for Randy Johnson.

After yesterday’s claims that Steve Trachsel’s role was unclear, it appears the methodical right-hander will be starting Friday’s game against San Francisco, with Kris Benson’s next start pushed back to Sunday afternoon. Newsday’s David Lennon examines the questions posed by what for the moment, is a 6 man rotation.

Benson and Randolph insist that the pitcher is feeling OK, and that nothing more than Benson’s ego suffered from Sunday’s shelling by the Nationals. It is a red flag, however, to suddenly alter a perfectly healthy pitcher’s turn in the rotation, and Benson conceded he could use a break even though he missed the first month with a strained pectoral muscle.

“It will give me a chance to rest my shoulder a little bit,” Benson said. “But everything’s fine from my standpoint.”

Benson alluded to the fact that he was helped by skipping a start at this juncture last season — he eventually surpassed 200 innings for the first time since 2000 — and expected the same benefit this year. The timing is a little suspicious, though, coming after Benson didn’t make it out of the first inning Sunday after giving up eight hits and six earned runs against the Nationals.

The whole scenario begs the question: Why give the breather to Benson and not to Pedro Martinez, who admitted yesterday that he is bothered by both a sore right foot and a lingering stiffness between his shoulder blades.

Martinez had a cortisone shot for the foot problem last season, and his back was wrapped with a heating pad yesterday afternoon as he prepared for tomorrow’s start against the Diamondbacks.

Martinez refuses to use either of his nagging conditions as excuses, but he was curious to know how many innings he has pitched this season.

When told 176, which ranks seventh in the National League, Martinez made a face that appeared to say, “Wow.” After totaling 217 innings during the regular season last year for the Red Sox, and then 27 more during the playoffs, Martinez seems to be gassed. A hard worker by nature, Martinez injured his back during spring training by doubling up his conditioning drills on an off day, and he may need to cut down some if he is to get through the next five weeks.

“The last two years have been pretty hard for me,” Martinez said. “I’m a little more beat up than I was last season.”

Martinez added that the short offseason, as well as the demands on his time, made the past winter more exhausting than others. He also pointed out that his weight was down to 178 pounds from the 190 he showed up with at the start of spring training, and the dramatic loss was a bit unusual for him. He still dismissed any talk of getting the kid-glove treatment down the stretch.

“If I’m not hurt and I’m able to get you out, then forget about everything else,” Martinez said. “I’ll get you out.”

In a move that might signal the end of the former Reds closer’s career, the Mets have designated Danny Graves for asssigment.