Mini Camp Day 2: Braden Looper

The Mets introduced Braden Looper as their new closer today at their Port St. Lucie complex as members of the 40 man roster and key members of management arrived for the second day of mini camp.

Looper was signed to a 2 year deal worth $6.5 Million with a club option for 2006, but he indicated that it wasn't all about the money or the opportunity to close. "I had other (similar) offers and other opportunities to close." said Looper, "I don't know if 'courted' is the right word. The Mets made feel most wanted."

From the Mets perspective, the feeling is mutual. "It's something that is true of all three guys we've signed this off season, whether it's Matsui, Cameron, or Looper." said Mets' GM Jim Duquette, "They all want to be here."

Looper saved 28 games in 34 opportunities last season and his experience as a closer and familiarity with the NL East lead the Mets to believe he will only improve upon those numbers. "I've always pitched well at Shea." Looper commented, adding, "I'll be there after the game no matter what the outcome. If I blow a game after Glavine pitched great, I'll come right out and say, 'Glavine was great. I sucked.'"

Duquette also addressed questions regarding the Mets remaining openings in right field and in the starting rotation, indicating that though he was still exploring opportunities, that the Mets were prepared to start the season with what they had in house if nothing else developed.

Despite pleadings from the New York media to pursue Vladimir Guerrero, Duquette indicated that it was his understanding that Guerrero had multiple multi-year deals (which he defined as being 5 or more years) on the table, and that Guerrero's representatives had indicated that they were not willing to entertain shorter term deals. So while he wasn't optimistic that anything would change, he indicated the mets were still "monitoring the situation."

Duquette mentioned incumbent Roger Cedeno, Raul Gonzalez, and Timo Perez as competitors for the open spot in the outfield. he also mentioned that Jeff Duncan had played right field but said, "We view Duncan as an everyday player. He will be playing somewhere next season day in and day out." indicating that Norfolk was the most likely location. He also pointed to Craig Brazell and mentioned Brazell playing some outfield in fall instructional league and winter ball. "There's no question about his bat. We just need to find a position to put him at."

The Mets continue to explore opportunities to trade for additional AA/AAA level talent to provide them with additional options in right field, though Duquette said nothing was imminent.

The Mets also feel that the market for available pitcher that would provide them with better options in the fifth starter slot is pretty thin. "We'll probably bring in some more experienced guys for Spring Training as non-roster invites to add to the competition." said Duquette. While Manager Art Howe indicated that Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths and Tyler Yates were the likely in-house candidates.

New pitching coach Rick Peterson continued to implement his system among the Mets pitchers today, spending 15 or 20 minutes having an introduction to bio-mechanics meeting with Braden Looper and spending over an hour working one on one with Aaron Heilman on a back lot mound away from public view. Heilman seemed to be working diligently to give himself as much of an edge as possible going into spring training. he worked with Peterson on learning the drills that the Mets had started teaching to the minor league pitchers yesterday and spent a lot of time working on a mound without a ball and talking with an animated Peterson about the mechanics of his system.

Though it was previously reported that Cliff Floyd would be attending the Mini Camp, the Mets said today that it was unlikely he would in fact make it due to a non-emergency family situation that required Floyd's attention. They stressed that is was unrelated to his surgically repaired tendon and that they expect Floyd to be 100% and ready to go at the start of Spring Training.

The Mets also expect Jose Reyes, who was reportedly having some minor visa problems, to report to camp on Friday.

PHOTOS: Keppel, Howe/Niemann, Duquette, McEwing, Wilson, Wigginton, Heilman, Roberts, Franco, Franco/Wilpon/Howe, R. Peterson/Looper, Looper, Cerda, Yates, Strange, Wheeler/Franco, Griffiths, Heilman, Duquette, M. Peterson, Brazell, Wilson, Peterson/Heilman(2), Looper

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