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Mets look ahead to fresh start after tough 2009

After season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from

After season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, Johan Santana hopes 2010 is a fresh start for him and the Mets. Credit: Getty Images

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - If any baseball team yearns for a fresh start, it's the Mets, and so it was appropriate that they took the field so early in 2010.

Granted, this served as only a sneak preview. The voluntary minicamp at the club's minor-league complex Monday welcomed Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, Daniel Murphy and a small group of players likely to begin the season in the minors.

"We all feel somewhat disappointed at how the year turned out last year," general manager Omar Minaya said. "But the good thing about it is, we all move on. 2009 is in the past. It's about 2010."

Although the Mets have holes after a deliberate offseason, he said: "I think we're approaching the team that we're going to start with. That being said, things could still happen in spring training."

The Mets very likely will make at least one more acquisition before pitchers and catchers report next month. They have treaded cautiously with all of the free-agent pitchers this winter. They've been in contact with free agent Ben Sheets, but's Jon Heyman reported that the Mets are not the favorites to sign the righthander.

If Sheets signs elsewhere - the Rangers, Athletics and Mariners are believed to be candidates - the remaining free-agent pool will feature Jon Garland, Jarrod Washburn and, on the lower tier, John Smoltz and Chien-Ming Wang.

The Mets have been in contact with the representatives for all four and have expressed a special interest in signing longtime Braves rival Smoltz. However, it's not clear whether he would be willing to pitch in New York.

Minaya said the team still has interest in signing Carlos Delgado and that Minaya himself has been communicating with Delgado. The slugger still has interest in being a first baseman, as opposed to serving as a designated hitter, Minaya said.

But Delgado has barely played first base while showcasing himself in his native Puerto Rico, so the Mets can't confidently commit to him. Fernando Tatis, a platoon help the past two seasons, still is a free agent.

The Mets appear likely to stick with catchers Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Omir Santos and Josh Thole. However, Minaya always has liked free agent Yorvit Torrealba, even though Torrealba has a grievance filed against the Mets for a blown-up agreement from two years ago.

In other news from minicamp:

Santana, recovering from left elbow surgery, and Perez, recovering from right knee surgery, will throw off a mound Tuesday.

Santana said he felt better than he did a year ago at this time. Perez said he moved from Mexico to Phoenix, where he has spent the winter under the supervision of trainer Brett Fischer.

Jonathon Niese, who tore his right hamstring last Aug. 5, threw off a mound Monday for the first time since the injury. He said he felt about "50 percent" in throwing seven or eight pitches.

Jerry Manuel said he considers Angel Pagan the favorite over Gary Matthews Jr. to start in centerfield while Carlos Beltran rehabilitates from right knee surgery. Manuel said he'll put a premium on defense in spring training after working extensively on situational hitting last year.

New York Sports