Camp Report: Mets grind through marathon day

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – On the first day of full workouts, new manager Willie Randolph made one thing clear: Club Met, the spring training resort, is dead. <P> With the Mets' troops assembling as a complete set for the first time this spring, Randolph settled right into the role of drill sergeant, putting the team through an intensive four-hour workout that left some players drained and sprawled out on the clubhouse carpet.

No matter, said Randolph, who would only acknowledge the day ran a little long due to a 40-minute meeting early in the morning.

The marathon day, which included live hitting off pitchers and a lengthy stretching and agility drill, dwarfed anything predecessor Art Howe ever put together in his two years at the helm. It's also expected to be the norm this spring.

"This is where it starts," Randolph said. "Spring training is where you formulate all that.

"I was really impressed with the way guys were bouncing around and working hard. It was a nice warm day but everyone was loose, and from top to bottom I don't think things could have gone any better."

For the observer, the workouts might have seemed monotonous, but the non-stop pace seemed to work for most of the players. Instead of taking breaks between each drill session, players were shuttled from field to field and jumped right into their next drill, whether it was batting practice, running the bases or pitchers covering first base.

Only a brief break was allowed for rest in the intensive work session, with fruit baskets tacked on to a golf cart and shuttled from diamond to diamond.

"It felt like it flew by," third baseman David Wright marveled. "We were doing something every minute of the day and it felt like we got a lot of work in."

"The workouts seem to have good intensity," general manager Omar Minaya agreed. "It's very organized. (Bullpen coach) Guy Conti is doing a good job with that."

As Mets pitchers faced off against batters, it was the arms who got the upper hand, going right along with the old axiom about pitchers being ahead of hitters in the early going.

Braden Looper was nasty, holding Mike Piazza to what would have been a single to right field and limiting Marlon Anderson to an assortment of weak dribblers, while Korean import Dae Sung Koo was positively baffling to left-handed batters Cliff Floyd and Eric Valent.

"He's got a little bit of cheese," Floyd said. "He looks like he's about to fall over and then … there you go."

The hitting star of the afternoon might have been Carlos Beltran, who pumped a few balls out of the live batting practice diamond for the biggest fireworks of the afternoon.

"Today was a long practice, but it was a good practice," Beltran said. "This is what we need to do to get in shape for the season and we will continue to train like this."

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