Victor Diaz and Xavier Nady both arrived at Mets camp Sunday within a half hour of each other, kicking off one of the club's most interesting storylines of the spring.
With manager Willie Randolph saying both players are "starting from scratch" in his eyes, each will battle over the next six weeks to become the Mets' Opening Day right fielder.
"It's nice," Randolph said. "I look forward to it, man. I love the competition."
Of the pair, Nady was the first to arrive. Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the November trade that returned Mike Cameron to his native centerfield, the 27-year-old Nady comes to the Mets with plenty of promise and high hopes.
He batted .261 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 124 games for the NL West champions last season, though coming to the Mets will present him with a chance for his first dose of set everyday duty in the big leagues.
Last year, Nady was asked to play first base, third base and all three outfield positions just to get into the lineup, a recurring theme over his Padres career.
"It's a good opportunity to play, and that's all you can ask for," "It's hard being a younger guy doing the whole utility thing, getting sporadic at-bats. … I just wasn't that comfortable at the plate."
A San Diego resident, Nady bumped into teammate Steve Trachsel shortly after the trade at the Athlete's Edge gym in San Marcos, Calif. Nady and Trachsel became fast workout companions, meeting three times a week for weight training.
"I think he's just hoping to get an opportunity," Trachsel said. "It didn't seem like he ever got a real solid chance in San Diego to show what he can do. I think that's what he's looking forward to most."
But Diaz, 24, also has his eyes set on doubling the 280 at-bats he compiled with the Mets last season, batting .257 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 91 games.
Diaz was the Mets' everyday right fielder when Cameron missed time in April for surgery and then again after his season-ending collision with Carlos Beltran in August.
Also appearing briefly in left field, Diaz showed flashes of promise, but struck out 82 times in 280 at-bats and had trouble in the field and on the bases. That led Randolph to say Sunday he hoped Diaz would understand the need to be "multi-faceted."
"I just wanted it a little too much," Diaz said.
Diaz performed well in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .444 in eight playoff games. Speaking often with teammate Miguel Tejada, Diaz said he learned to become more disciplined at the plate and a better hitter with runners in scoring position.
He said he is not concerned with simply making it to New York with the team. "That's not even a thought to me anymore," Diaz said. "I just want to play."
Both players seemed at ease with each other, chatting near the batting cage and remaining in good spirits. Clearly, this will not be a fight to the death – more like a friendly competition.
Helping that aura is the fact that Randolph said playing time would not be an issue. The manager said each player is being given a fair shake as Spring Training opens, and the upcoming World Baseball Classic will thin the Mets' camp a little, allowing more at-bats for both players.
"Both of them look great," Randolph said.
Back in action: Mets closer Billy Wagner was back in camp Sunday, throwing a bullpen session. Wagner left camp Saturday with flu-like symptoms.
"I slept the whole day and didn't budge," Wagner said.
False alarm: It seems Jose Lima won't be allowed to wear No. 42 with the Mets after all. Lima, 33, was instructed to put his No. 99 jersey on after just one day wearing his new digit.
Baseball universally retired No. 42 for Jackie Robinson in 1997, but Lima was wearing the number before the April 15 ceremony that year and thus was grandfathered in as a player who could continue to wear it.
However, Lima has not worn No. 42 in either of his previous two stints with the Dodgers and Royals, and Major League Baseball has not granted Lima permission to wear it with the Mets.
"At least I tried," Lima said. "I'm not mad. I don't make the decisions."
Parra hurt: Right-handed pitcher Jose Parra, who pitched in 13 games with the Mets in 2004, hit a bump attempting a return engagement with the team.
Parra, 33, was sent to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for examination of a right elbow injury that had been bothering him. He pitched last season for Orix in the Japanese League, going 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA in eight games.
Visa delays: There was still no sign of reliever Jorge Julio on Sunday, with his expected arrival hung up in visa problems. Right-hander Anderson Garcia is also being delayed, but the team expects Garcia to report Monday.
Contact Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch at email@example.com.