General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during spring training...

General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during spring training at Digital Domain stadium in Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 19, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a far-ranging interview with WFAN Tuesday, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson painted a picture of a much-improved team with some questions to answer as spring training approaches.

"We're more excited this year going into spring training than we have been certainly since I've been here," Alderson told host Mike Francesa. "At least I am."

Alderson praised shortstop Ruben Tejada for his offseason efforts to improve his conditioning, while at the same time playing down the chances of signing a potential upgrade in Stephen Drew.

Drew is seeking a multiyear deal, while the Mets appear hesitant to make a long-term commitment. Alderson said an agreement would only be possible "under the right circumstances."

Alderson said that the Mets continue to explore shortstop options via the trade market. But according to one rival executive, the Mets would likely have to part with some of their young pitching to score an upgrade. So far, they haven't shown the willingness to put those promising arms in play.

Alderson said some of those young arms may find themselves breaking into the big leagues as relievers. With the exception of top prospect Noah Syndergaard, Alderson can envision a scenario in which the bullpen is used as a training ground for some of the other promising arms.

Nevertheless, Alderson reiterated that the Mets would prefer to add another veteran arm as insurance for the bullpen. That may be more difficult to do after several options came off the board within the last week. After missing out on Grant Balfour, Alderson acknowledged that the Mets made an offer to another free-agent reliever, though it was not close to meeting his demands. "The reliever market is pretty well evaporated," Alderson said. "It's gone."

In the outfield, Alderson revealed that Juan Lagares will start the first spring training game in centerfield. However, the GM emphasized that playing time will largely be determined by production on offense. Chris Young and Eric Young Jr. will also be in the mix in center with free-agent slugger Curtis Granderson penciled in as a corner outfielder.

But Alderson offered a much hazier picture about first base, where Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will vie to be starter. The Mets had dangled them this winter but found no takers, the product of what Alderson called "a little bit of a disconnect" in value. But according to one rival executive who engaged the Mets in talks about the first basemen, the team's demands seemed to change, creating "a bit of a moving target" that complicated negotiations.

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