Good job by Jim Baumbach, who got in touch with Darryl Strawberry, who insists that everything is fine with him and the Mets veterans. The Mets certainly didn't need any more distractions like a long-term feud between the current players and Strawberry.

--Omar Minaya hung out on the field prior to tonight's Mets-Phillies game. He's hitting the road tomorrow to scout more prospects for the Mets' seventh overall pick, he said; assistant GM John Ricco will accompany the team to Milwaukee and San Diego.

Minaya said he'll personally see about 10 draft candidates, and that the Mets will draft the "best player available." When I asked Minaya whether he had financial clearance to draft the best player available, he said that yes, he did.

I reported last week that Minaya went to see Bryce Brentz, an outfielder from Middle Tennesee State. I also hear that the Mets like North Carolina right-hander Matt Harvey, whom Baseball America ranked 21st in its most recent rankings.

As for Carlos Beltran, Minaya expressed optimism that the centerfielder would return to the Mets this season. However, Beltran hasn't yet been cleared for full baseball activities, and there's no telling when that will happen. Once he gets that clearance, it'll be another four-to-six weeks.

Translation: I don't see how Beltran returns prior to the All-Star break.

--What most Mets fans want to know is, will the Mets spend money? I think they'll be willing to pay over slot for this year's pick, as Minaya indicated. Bud Selig knows that the Mets have good citizens the last few years, when it comes to adhering to the central office's recommended slot for draft picks, and the commissioner knows that the team has a credibility issue with its fans. So Selig won't raise too much of a stink if his pals the Wilpons buck the system.

Of course, the next question is, do the Wilpons have the money? I think they do. They spent $66 million on Jason Bay last winter, after all.

Will they spend money to upgrade the major-league season roster during this season? If this Mets team stays in the race, then come July, I think ownership will commit to someone. Not necessarily Roy Oswalt; it's not good baseball business to trade prospects for Oswalt and his contract. But Cliff Lee (making $9 million this season) or Kevin Millwood (making $9 million from Baltimore, plus $3 million from Texas)? Sure, those would make sense.

--MLB is investigating Joe West for his latest controvery. Good.

And, good night.



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