Healthy Floyd on the go

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Cliff Floyd is pain-free for the first time in nearly five years, and it feels so good, even the loss of a $16,000 earring isn't getting the outfielder down. <P> Minus one of his 3.5 carat jewelry pieces – lost somewhere between Port St. Lucie and last night's Miami Heat game – Floyd was on the move in Tuesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles, successfully testing the arm of Javy Lopez on a steal of second base.

"I'm going to steal until they start paying attention to me," Floyd said. "Then I'll chill out for a little while. That's my plan."

With the bounce back in his step, Floyd has made it a mission to prove to manager Willie Randolph that the running game isn't out of the question. Now stashed lower in the lineup, Floyd believes that he can steal 20 to 25 bags conservatively without hurting the Mets' offensive production, and wants to make sure Randolph never lifts his green light to steal.

"I always said, I'm not the home run hitter," Floyd said. "I would like to do a lot of things."

Floyd reached double digits in stolen bases last season essentially playing on one leg, swiping 11 bags while hampered by a badly injured Achilles. In 2000 and 2001 with the Florida Marlins, Floyd stole a combined 42 bases, and believes he's capable of reaching those heights again.

"It used to be [part of my game]," he said. "It can come back. I'm telling you, it's as a hell of a difference when you have a foot that acts right. It's a good feeling."

As for the earring? After ransacking his vehicle and bedroom in town last night, Floyd dispatched Mets clubhouse attendants on a yet-fruitless search for the missing jewelry.

"Whoever found that's going to be a happy camper," Floyd lamented, stopping short when a reporter suggested he would have explaining to do to his family.

"I make the donuts," he said, walking away on a high note.

Extra bases: Kris Benson tossed three innings of one-run, three-hit ball on Tuesday, his first exhibition appearance of the spring. The right-hander surrendered three consecutive hits to Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa and Javy Lopez in the first inning, but settled in after to retire seven batters in a row.

"I was definitely anxious to get out there," said Benson, who had a start rained out on March 3 against St. Louis. "I was a little jumpy, but I settled down after and felt good after the first."

"I was looking forward to seeing him throw," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He was throwing real good on the side. It was really nice to see. He made the pitches he had to, and kept the ball down."

Benson said that the one missed start, which turned into a simulated batting practice session, shouldn't hamper his preparation for April.

"Everything's right on track," he said. "I got a lot out of today."


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