Camp Report: Ready to roll

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The 2006 Mets will work out as a full squad for the first time on Thursday morning, with all players slated to gather on Field 2 of the team's Spring Training complex.

Manager Willie Randolph said he isn't planning anything special for his second annual 'State of the Mets' address. A brisk and inspirational message ought to get the job done, he said.

"I'm looking forward to it," Randolph said. "I'm not going to make a big spiel about anything. I'm going to be very straight and honest and to the point about what I feel we need to do this spring and this season."

Camp was marked Wednesday by the arrival of slugger Carlos Delgado, who wasted no time flexing his muscle, pumping home runs in a batting practice workout. Acquired by the Mets from the Marlins in November, the 33-year-old Delgado is being looked to as a team leader at first base, a role he said he feels comfortable filling.

"I think it's more [about] teamwork," Delgado said. "If everybody realizes they have a job to do ... this ballclub is good enough that nobody has to do anything extra."

Delgado has not forgotten his icy reception from Mets fans last spring, when he was booed mercilessly at Tradition Field and later at Shea Stadium - perhaps a double-edged jeer, reflecting Delgado's decision to spurn the Mets for a smaller contract offer with Florida and also his controversial stance regarding the playing of 'God Bless America' at MLB stadiums.

"That's one thing about New York, and I love it," Delgado said. "They're fanatics. They're passionate about everything they do. You've got to respect that; I tip my cap. When you're on the receiving end, it's not that much fun, so hopefully when I'm on the same side of the fence, it will be better."

  • Kaz Matsui comes into camp prepared to defend his role as the Mets' starting second baseman, going through agility drills Wednesday. He was minus his personal trainer from Japan, former Seibu Lions teammate Toru Kumazawa, whom Randolph said will not be permitted in clubhouses with the club this season.

    The Mets do not allow personal trainers and extra coaches to circulate around the team, though Matsui and Kumazawa will be free to work out when Matsui is away from the ballpark.

    "I believe in his philosophies and I trust him," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I just want to have a satisfying season. That's the main thing."

    Randolph called Matsui, as is, an "average" second baseman, which is not necessarily a slight. Randolph said he feels Matsui could improve if he stays healthy this spring, citing progress made before injuries hindered his progress in 2005.

    In the competition between Matsui, Bret Boone, Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger, Randolph called defense the key. Whoever brings the best glove to camp, it would seem, has a great chance of starting the season at Shea Stadium.

    "You've got to have defense," Randolph said. "Anything else is a bonus, really."

  • Second baseman Bret Boone said his internal fire "went out" in a season that saw him released by both the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins. After hitting .170 in 14 games for Minnesota, Boone said he had other offers from Major League clubs, but instructed his agent not to take them.

    Re-energized after a winter of deep thought and watching baseball on satellite TV, Boone -- who showed up at camp with a striking platinum dye job -- said his juices are flowing again, following what he called almost a nervous breakdown. He'll get $1 million if his Minor League contract is purchased by the Mets.

    "It's irrelevant to me," Boone said. "It's not about that. It's about finishing my career the way I want to finish it."

  • An MRI on the injured right elbow of pitcher Jose Parra revealed a torn elbow ligament that will require season-ending Tommy John surgery. Parra, 33, pitched 13 games with New York in 2004 and was in camp as a non-roster invitee.

  • The saga of Pedro Martinez's injured right toe continues. Martinez threw a long-toss session again Wednesday under the watch of pitching coach Rick Peterson, Triple-A pitching coach Randy Niemann and trainer Ray Ramirez. Martinez said he hoped to pitch off the slope of a mound by this weekend, though it would appear his chances for pitching in the World Baseball Classic are growing slimmer by the day.

  • Right-handed pitcher Jose Lima is doing his job as far as keeping the Mets' Spring Training clubhouse loose. Lima, 33, filled the role of prop comic Wednesday, jumping on stools, getting on his knees and using various pieces of equipment to wildly and animatedly tell a lengthy story, to howls of laughter from a dozen Mets.

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