At the start of this season, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson had yet to make their major-league debuts.
But much can change during the course of a baseball season, as evidenced by the lockers that Edgin and Carson have been assigned along the same wall in the Mets' clubhouse.
In their first taste of the big leagues, the lefthanders have opened eyes with their performances down the stretch. Now they are battling to keep those lockers in their names when Opening Day rolls around in 2013.
"Every time I take the mound, it's an audition for next year," Carson said. "I want to be here, I want to start here. I'm trying to finish strong this year, going into the offseason to work hard, and going into spring training to try to get that job."
These days, these are the only competitions that matter for the Mets. The second wild-card spot has dangled hopes of a miracle run in front of the Brewers and Phillies, but as the Mets get set to play those two teams, they must accept the consequences of their second-half swoon.
With his team plummeting, manager Terry Collins has spent recent days shifting his focus toward taking inventory of the roster with an eye on next season.
The Mets head into the winter with key questions. Though they plan to explore long-term extensions for star third baseman David Wright and potential Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, it's unclear if this season's payroll of roughly $95 million will rise or stay the same.
Aside from locking down their two best players, solidifying an unproductive outfield and perhaps upgrading behind the plate, the Mets' to-do list likely will include another reshuffling of the bullpen.
With that uncertainty, the Mets would benefit from finding as many viable low-cost options as they can. Edgin and Carson fit that description. Both lefties could start 2013 in the bullpen for about this year's salary of lefty specialist Tim Byrdak: $1 million.
Edgin, 25, has not allowed a run in 12 consecutive appearances. He has held lefthanders to a .140 average in 54 plate appearances, allowing only four of 19 inherited runners to score.
A 30th-round draft pick in 2010, Edgin has climbed the organizational ladder with a fastball that averages 93 miles per hour. Since Byrdak went down with a shoulder injury, Edgin has posted a 3.42 ERA in 29 appearances.
"Every outing is almost like a test, I guess you could say, and you're trying to pass every test," Edgin said. "The ultimate outcome is to land a spot on the Opening Day [roster]."
Carson, 23, has limited opponents to a .211 average and posted a 5.23 ERA in 12 games, covering 101/3 innings. His 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors was his best of any season since the Mets selected him in the 14th round of the 2007 draft.
Carson's fastball has averaged 94 mph, giving the Mets another possible power arm from the left side.
Said Collins: "The two young guys down there, they've shown me a lot."
Notes & quotes: According to a recent projection, catcher Josh Thole could be on the brink of salary-arbitration eligibility for next season. Eligibility is based on big-league service time . . . The Denver Athletic Club named Dickey the winner of its annual Branch Rickey Award. The honor recognizes a player's community- service efforts.