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NEW YORK - In a pep talk via e-mail, Mike Schmidt reminded the Philadelphia Phillies of their big comeback to win the NL East last season and said “the Mets know you’re better than they are.”
With the Phillies opening a crucial, three-game series at New York on Friday night, the Hall of Famer sent an e-mail to manager Charlie Manuel hoping to fire up the team. Manuel posted it on the inside door of the clubhouse for his players to see as they headed out for batting practice.
“One pitch, one at bat, one play, one situation, think ’small’ and ’big’ things result, tough at-bats, lots of walks, stay up the middle with men on base, whatever it takes to ’keep the line moving’ on offense, 27 outs on defense, the Mets know you’re better than they are,” Schmidt said in the letter.
“They remember last year. You guys are never out of a game. Welcome the challenge that confronts you this weekend. You are the stars. Good luck. .20.”
Injured closer Billy Wagner of the Mets didn’t have much to say in response, except: “Did Gary Carter send us one?”
Schmidt, now a special instructor in spring training for the Phillies, was a standout third baseman with Philadelphia from 1972-89.
Last season, the Mets held a seven-game cushion with 17 to play but let Philadelphia rally past them in one of the worst collapses in baseball history. Manuel thought Schmidt’s message was a good one for his team, which began the night trailing first-place New York by three games.
“I liked it. Basically, he wanted me to put it up on the board and I wanted the guys to see it,” Manuel said. “I have a lot of respect for Mike and I love talking baseball with him. It seems like we’re kind of on the same page when we talk.”
Manuel said he wasn’t worried about Schmidt’s letter serving as bulletin board material for the Mets once they heard about it. And he doesn’t necessarily agree that New York thinks the Phillies are the better team.
After all, he pointed out, the Mets had won 10 of 15 meetings between the rivals this year going into Friday night — after Philadelphia won the season series 12-6 last year by taking the final eight matchups.
“I think that was him really sending us a message of how much he likes us and how much he’s pulling for us to win. That’s what I got in that message,” Manuel said. “I think our guys, especially the ones that were here last year and the veteran guys on our team, I think they know what we have to do and what’s at stake. And I think we know how we’re supposed to handle it.
“I think the entire message was very good. I think he was reminding them how good he thinks they are.”
The trash talk between these squads started before last season when Jimmy Rollins pronounced Philadelphia the team to beat in the NL East even though New York ran away with the division crown the year before. Rollins backed up his brash words by winning the NL MVP award.
Early in spring training this year, after the Mets acquired ace Johan Santana, normally quiet Carlos Beltran had a message for Rollins, saying the Mets were the team to beat in 2008.
In other news Friday, the Phillies and infielder Tadahito Iguchi agreed to a major league contract that would pay him about $51,000 for the rest of the season.
Released by San Diego on Monday, the 33-year-old Iguchi spent two months with Philadelphia last season, hitting .304 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 45 games. He helped fill in at second base when All-Star Chase Utley was injured.
Iguchi missed almost two months this year with a separated right shoulder and batted .231 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 81 games for the Padres. He is expected to join the Phillies on Saturday, and the club will make a move on the 40-man roster to create room for him.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Iguchi is a .268 career hitter with 44 home runs and 205 RBIs in 489 games with the Chicago White Sox (2005-07), Phillies (2007) and Padres (2008).
Notes: Phillies third base coach Steve Smith began serving a two-game suspension Friday night, so Dave Huppert filled in. Smith was disciplined following an ejection at Wrigley Field last weekend. Huppert is the club’s manager at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
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