PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In his introductory news conference on the eve of the reporting day for pitchers and catchers, Mets manager Terry Collins exuded the kind of optimism generally found in spring training. "We think 2014 is going to be a good year for us," he said Friday.
But he also outlined the many decisions still facing the Mets, including the makeup of the bullpen, the outfield and the lineup. The question marks begin at the top, where the roster does not offer any obvious fits for leadoff hitter.
Collins indicated that Eric Young Jr. has the inside track to lead off despite his relatively low .325 career on-base percentage. With Young looking as if he'll play every day, Juan Lagares may find himself squeezed out.
Collins also mentioned newcomer Chris Young as a leadoff candidate.
Closer Bobby Parnell returned to the mound for the first time since undergoing Sept. 10 surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. His session was brief -- 10 pitches -- but it came ahead of schedule.
The righthander was not expected to throw off a mound for at least another week, but he felt good enough to request clearance from the team's medical staff.
"It was a good start," said Collins, who reiterated that Parnell will be the closer, even with Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth expected in camp.
Wilmer Flores will play some shortstop as the Mets evaluate him as a potential backup . . . Lucas Duda will see some time in the outfield during spring training as a way for him to get additional at-bats . . . For the second straight season, Jon Niese begins camp as the front-runner to start on Opening Day.
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