Pedro Beato during today's spring training workout at Digital Domain...

Pedro Beato during today's spring training workout at Digital Domain stadium in Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 23, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Francisco Rodriguez spent the offseason trying to fix himself or, short of that, corral the volatile K-Rod who spun wildly out of control last September.

He remains a work in progress. But in the meantime, as Rodriguez continues to sort through his own issues, the Mets' closer is doing what he can to help his teammates improve. One of his current projects is Pedro Beato, 24, a Rule 5 pick who reminds Rodriguez of himself.

The Mets hope Beato (pronounced bee-AH-to) can be another weapon in their developing bullpen, and with a five-pitch arsenal, including a fastball that can reach 97 mph, he projects as a future closer.

That dazzling potential is what had Rodriguez and pitching coach Dan Warthen studying Beato in the otherwise empty bullpen of Digital Domain Park on Friday morning.

Between pitches, Rodriguez would step in alongside Beato and demonstrate a longer stride, encouraging him to use every inch of his 6-6 frame to rifle the ball to the plate. And with each pop of the glove, shouts of encouragement would come from K-Rod and Warthen.

"We were working on his landing," Rodriguez said. "He's got to take advantage more of his legs to generate more power for his arm . . . When your stride is too short, your body tends to lock up and the ball is going to be flat. It's just going to spin, and the hitter has a better chance to see the ball. It doesn't have that snap on it."

Rodriguez and Warthen believe they may have discovered Beato's biggest flaw in Friday's tutorial. Now they're in the process of correcting it on a more permanent basis.

Beato put up impressive numbers in the Orioles' minor-league system in 2010 - a 2.11 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 19 walks in 592/3 innings for Double-A Bowie. But the Orioles exposed him to the Rule 5 draft, and the Mets took him at No. 18 in December.

Beato has the raw ability. It's just a matter of refining that talent, and Warthen thinks he had a breakthrough Friday.

"Today was by far my most encouraging day with him," Warthen said. "I don't think he ever utilized his legs and his body to his fullest extent. He has this natural sinking fastball, and just by throwing it, he could beat a lower-level hitter.

Beato appreciated the personal attention from Rodriguez and was even more pleased that his advice immediately paid dividends. It also was a good time for a tune-up, with Beato scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday against the Braves.

"There was a huge difference," Beato said. "About 75 percent of my body is legs, so I better use it to my advantage. I'll keep working at it."

Rodriguez took notice of Beato's ability from the first time they played catch on the opening day of camp. "As a player, you know who has talent," he said. Now Rodriguez is determined to help maximize it.

"I'm not selfish," Rodriguez said. "If there's any young guy that wants to ask me how to pitch, I'm going to respond. I'm going to let them know what I've learned in my career."

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