Originally created 07/31/98

Piazza low-key about upcoming Dodgers series



NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza will let others talk about how strange it is seeing him play against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He'll be too busy trying to beat them.

For the first time since making his major league debut in 1992 for Los Angeles, Piazza will face the Dodgers when they come to visit the New York Mets this weekend.

The six-time All-Star catcher says he's approaching the four-game series that begins Friday night as merely another hurdle in the Mets' bid for the NL wild-card spot.

"I'm just trying to look at it as a regular game," he said with a sigh Wednesday night.

Piazza, traded to the Mets on May 22 from Florida, had spent his entire pro career in the Dodgers' organization prior to being dealt to Florida. He was with the Marlins only a week before they sent him to New York.

Piazza, 29, will be hitting against former batterymates, but doesn't think that will help him.

"It's not to anyone's advantage," Piazza said of facing the pitchers he caught for several seasons. "They still have to make the same pitches. I caught a bunch of guys at the All-Star game. You don't have an advantage."

While there remains speculation about whether or not Piazza is comfortable in New York, the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year has recently looked a lot more at home at the plate.

With Wednesday's 2-for-3 performance against San Diego, Piazza has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, posting a .361 average (26-for-72) in that span with three homers, 14 runs scored and 12 RBIs.

Piazza is batting .345 (70-for-203) since coming to New York, with eight homers, 36 runs scored and 23 RBIs in 54 games prior to Thursday.

He is hitting .316 overall with 17 homers, 57 runs, and 58 RBIs.

"I think he likes New York," Dodgers general manager and longtime Piazza family friend Tom Lasorda said. "I hope he's satisfied where he is."

Piazza is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. The Mets have said that they would like to re-sign him, but the sides have not yet had any formal discussions.

"We got him with the intention to try and keep him here, and that's what we intend to do," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said Thursday.

With Lasorda in the Dodgers front office, there has been speculation that a return to Los Angeles could be possible for Piazza in the future.

"I can't say anything about that because he's not on our team," Lasorda said.

Piazza established several career marks in 1997 while with the Dodgers. He batted .362 with 201 hits, 124 RBIs and 104 runs scored, all lifetime bests.

His 40 homers last season tied him with Roy Campanella for the second-most ever by a catcher. Mets teammate Todd Hundley holds the record with 41.

Last season marked the second year in a row Piazza was the runnerup in the NL Most Valuable Player voting.

On Friday, seeing Dodger Blue may stir some memories from his days in Los Angeles.

"I'm not thinking about it much. I'm just trying to do my job," he said. "I'm just trying to stay as focused as I can for my current team, the Mets. I'm not really reflecting."