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Mets' Dickey is a realist, Murphy optimist

Mets starter R.A. Dickey pitches against the Cubs

Mets starter R.A. Dickey pitches against the Cubs during the first inning of 9-3 loss in Chicago. (May 26, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

R.A. Dickey and Daniel Murphy each had mountains to climb this offseason.

For Dickey, he scaled Kilimanjaro, and returned from Africa with his Mets' contract still valid. Murphy's mission, however, remains ongoing as he continues to ascend the learning curve at second base.

Both will be counted on to play significant roles, and when asked Tuesday night about the club's chances in the NL East, they gave very different answers.

"You can't just go in and say, we're going to be this team," said Dickey, who along with Murphy was honored at the 32nd annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. "It's a real organic process. Hopefully it won't be dysfunctional and we'll all be able to cohese together and do it. But we're in a tough division and we have to be honest about that . . . we certainly have to be honest about where we are, and that's really the only way I see us getting any better is doing that."

While Dickey took a more realistic approach, given the Mets' slashed payroll and the departure of Jose Reyes, Murphy was still very optimistic.

"The expectations for us are like any other [season] -- we expect to go to the playoffs," he said. "I think we've gotten better . . . I see nothing but upside."

Murphy cited the developing Ruben Tejada, as well as the healthy returns of Ike Davis and David Wright, as the reasons for his rosy outlook. As for Davis, Murphy said he sent him a text saying he put in a request to bat near him in the lineup. "Cause that guy is a killer," Murphy said. "[Davis] kind of laughed and sent me a text back and said, 'Let's go dominate.' "

With Johan Santana a question mark, Dickey could wind up the ace. "I certainly hope that's not the case," he said, "but if the gantlet has passed, even for a moment, then I'll try to accept the challenge the best I know how."

Given that possibility, it had to be unsettling for the Mets to have him tackle Kilimanjaro, even in a charitable pursuit. That's why the team notified Dickey that his contract could be voided by a career-threatening injury. But after the pitcher's safe return, COO Jeff Wilpon was among the first to call him, and Dickey insists there are no hard feelings.

"Jeff ended up making a donation, and they did what they had to do," Dickey said. "Twenty-nine other teams would have done the same thing . . . But when I got down safe, I think everybody secretly was pulling for the trip to succeed obviously."

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