Mets Kick Off Minicamp Monday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – First-year Mets manager Willie Randolph strolled the grounds of the team's spring training complex on Monday, walking at a brisk pace and asking any passersby – fans, reporters, even maintenance workers – for directions.

"Field 5?" Randolph asked, obviously late for one appointment or another. "Anyone know where that is?"

Indeed, it's easy to forget in the mix of things that Randolph is learning the ropes of the Mets, day by day. To complicate matters, the Mets have been changing minute by minute recently, a ongoing metamorphosis that will reach a new high with Tuesday's introduction of outfielder Carlos Beltran in New York.

"I understand this team wants to be as competitive as it can," Randolph said. "I think it's tough to rebuild in this kind of market. It's so far been a lot more than I expected. Ownership has worked hard to get this club back to its winning ways."

With a swelling amount of top prospects joining two dozen players familiar to major league rosters, the organization appears primed to get the 2005 season started on the right foot.

Players coasted through their first official drills of the year with extra vigor on Monday, even tackling run-of-the-mill group classroom sessions with excitement.

"You can feel it," said third baseman David Wright. "Everybody's pumped. We feel confident with all five of our starters that we've got a chance every day, and now having a five-tool outfielder is only going to save us more runs."

If and when Beltran arrives in Port St. Lucie on Wednesday (as has been rumored), it will be the next big step in creating an exciting clubhouse atmosphere that Randolph hopes can turn the Mets into a true team.

"We've still got to form our team identity," Randolph said. "It starts with everybody getting comfortable with each other. It's always nice to have talent, but you still have to cultivate that."

  • Randolph appeared high on free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado, who has been widely rumored as the Mets' next big-money target.

    "He's a guy who will address issues in the clubhouse and speak his mind," said Randolph, who also praised Delgado's defense. "The people I've talked to say that he's awesome in the clubhouse."

  • Earlier in the day, the Mets officially introduced Dae Sung Koo, a 35-year-old Korean lefthander who signed a major league contract with the club earlier in the week.

    Accompanied by his wife and tailed by several aggressive Korean cameramen, Koo's first day of life as a Met contained such thrilling items as a game of long-toss with Kris Benson and Aaron Heilman. That experience was chronicled by two video cameramen and three still photographers.

  • Additional Mets players in camp on Monday included Matt Ginter, Joe McEwing, Orber Moreno, Jason Phillips, Grant Roberts, Scott Strickland and Victor Zambrano. Word is that Cuban defector Alay Soler will be in town on Tuesday.

    Pitcher Aaron Heilman throws some short toss at minicamp. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    1B Ian Bladergroen plays catch with Mike Carp. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    1B Mike Carp on the receiving end of a long toss session with Bladergroen. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    Alhaji Turay awaits his turn in the batting cage. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    Pitcher Matt Lindstrom goes into his windup in a long toss session on day one of Mets' minicamp. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    CF Lastings Milledge finishes up his first batting practice session. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    The Mets' top prospects receive some group coaching on day one of Mets' minicamp. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    Infielders Brett Harper (left), Chase Lambin (middle), and Shawn Bowman (#60) get comfortable on the field. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    Tim Teufel watches prospects Lastings Milledge, Cory Wells, and other take batting practice. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

    Outfielder Cory Wells gets ready to step into the batting cage. (Photo by Patrick Teale)

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