10 Questions For Big League Camp

There is a new sense of optimism within the New York Mets, even though the team is pretty much the same as the two under-.500 clubs that have in habited Citi Field since it opened. With that, there will still be questions as spring training kicks into full gear next week. The Mets have many, but here are 10 currently facing the club.

10. Which Mets rookies will make this club?

Not many, as most of the farm came up last season. But Dillon Gee (2-2, 2.18 ERA in 5 starts last September) has a good chance of making the team as a back end starter. Lucas Duda (.202, 4 HR, 13 RBI in '10) could stick as a reserve outfielder after a cup of coffee at the end of last season. But don't expect Jenrry Mejia making the club this year as he should go back to Triple-A Buffalo when camp breaks. Sandy Alderson wants to take a deliberate approach with the club.

9. Is Jason Bay full recovered?

With $16 million owed to him in 2011 and another $16 million in 2012, the Mets sure hope so or he will enter Oliver Perez territory. The power hitting outfielder seemed spooked by Citi Field's gigantic dimensions and was limited to 91 games last year due to a concussion suffered at Dodger Stadium. In his first year with the Mets, Bay hit just .259 with six home runs and 47 RBI. He seems healthy now, but was healthy last year before hitting his head. The Mets need his bat to return to previous levels. If David Wright can serve as an example, Bay could be due for a bounce back.

8. What new players should the fans look out for?

Alderson did nothing to promote new player jersey sales, but he did make some moves. Both Chris Capuano and Chris Young will be in the rotation if they are both healthy and Ronny Paulino will back up Josh Thole behind the plate (if he can get his visa situation straightened out). Willie Harris and Scott Hairston will compete for spots on the 25-man roster and there will be arms competing for the bullpen, including D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Tankersley, Tim Bydrak, Blaine Boyer, Taylor Buchholz and Boof Bonser.

7. Speaking of the bullpen, will K-Rod be back?

Yes and expect him to take on the closer role again. Frankie Rodriguez took a plea bargain and seems fully recovered from his thumb injury that took place last season. He lost his salary for the rest of the season, but is off the disqualified list and now back to help the team.

If K-Rod gets 55 appearances in 2011, his 2012 option of $17 million will kick in, so expect the volatile closer to be on his best behavior. But it will be quite interesting to see where he's at, and where the team is headed as he approaches those 55 appearances. K-Rod could be trait bait or be given the Ollie Perez treatment (see Perez, appearances, late 2010) if the team falters in the stretch and they don't want that 2012 clause to kick in.

6. What about Jose Reyes? Is he fully healthy?

According to Reyes he is. Going into his walk year, the leadoff man will be motivated to produce and stay on the field. He is making $11 million this season, but will be looking for a raise, especially if he re-establishes himself as the most dangerous leadoff man in baseball. And yes, he will be batting leadoff, there will be no experiments this year.

5. More importantly, how is Carlos Beltran? Will he be the centerfielder for this year?

Unless proven otherwise, Collins will open the spring with Beltran in center (when he finally hits the field). According to Beltran, the bum knee seems to be fully healed, but the club will take it slower with him in the early going. But, Beltran can put pressure on the knee and that is something he couldn't do last season. Much like Reyes, Beltran is in his walk year, so expect a very good year from the Mets best all-around player (if healthy).

4. Without Johan Santana, who is in the starting rotation?

Mike Pelfrey will be the Opening Day starter, with R.A. Dickey getting a spot. Jon Niese will be in the front end of the rotation as well. Then the four and five spots will be up for competition between Capuano, Young and Gee, depending on who is healthy, effective and turns in the best spring performance. Yes, going into camp, Oliver Perez will be given a shot.

3. Will the club actually have Luis Castillo as the second baseman?

Could very well happen. Second base is the only open position on the club with all of the candidates not warming the hearts. Rule 5 draft pick Brad Emaus and rookie Chin-Lung Hu are unproven but very well may end up taking the job when all is said and done. Daniel Murphy can hit, but may not be able to play second base for 162 games. Ruben Tejada is getting some serious looks, but Alderson and company may be more inclined to have him start in Triple-A until he proves he can hit more regularly. So that leaves Castillo. When Collins was asked about Castillo and the second base job, he response was, "he very well could be." That sentiment rings loudly.

2. Will Castillo and Oliver Perez be on the club on Opening Day?

If they play well in spring training and the Mets do not find takers, the club may just keep them on the roster. Now before fans riot in revolt, that probably won't happen. Perez showed no signs in winter ball of regaining his old form, so the smart money says he won't be around come April. But can the Mets eat the final year of his contract?

Castillo, on the other hand, will depend on how the other second base candidates play. With proper motivation, he could actually help the club, but do not expect miracles.

1. How will new manager Terry Collins adjust?

Collins is a smart man, so he will manage his new role with precision. The 61-year-old manager will be tougher on the players and make sure they are playing proper ball. With a mandate from ownership, Collins will have the ability to sit down who he wants, no matter what their salary says. That said, it's so far, so good for Collins as the players seem to like his energy and drive. He won't be afraid to get into their faces and control the clubhouse how he sees fit. Right now, it's a honeymoon in Port St. Lucie, but Collins will run this team how he chooses.

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