Mets' 3 Florida keys

Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran (Credit: Getty Images, 2009)

1 The lost boys: All eyes will be on Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo in the next six weeks, or as long as they remain Mets property. General manager Sandy Alderson repeatedly has said the underperforming (and overpaid) duo must "earn" a spot on the Opening Day roster or he will not hesitate to cut them loose. Perez is due $12 million in the final year of his contract and Castillo has $6 million coming to him, so a willingness to eat that kind of money represents a bold statement by Alderson. We'll see if he can back it up.

2 Center stage: The Mets need to find out if Carlos Beltran, the team's $119-million centerfielder, still is capable of playing the position on surgically repaired knees that have limited him to a total of 145 games in the past two seasons. After three operations and the looming threat of microfracture surgery, Beltran again plans to wear a brace that protects his more fragile right knee but limits his mobility. That will put a great deal of pressure on new manager Terry Collins, who must determine if Beltran - a proud five-time All-Star - must be moved to rightfield, with Angel Pagan moving to center.

3 Closing act: Perhaps the biggest mystery heading into spring training is the psyche of Francisco Rodriguez, who avoided jail time this offseason by pleading guilty to attempted assault charges. He's also coming back from season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, an injury suffered when he punched his girlfriend's father in the face. The Mets expect K-Rod to be healthy, but will he have the same mind-set that made him one of the game's best closers? Rodriguez has always relied on emotion to help him close games, but will he have that same aggressiveness after attending court-mandated anger management classes? It's something to watch as K-Rod prepares for the season.

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