Mets mull deadline with Zambrano

The Mets have assembled their 2007 pitching rotation without the name Victor Zambrano, but the right-hander has not forgotten about his potential return to New York.

With the arbitration deadline approaching at midnight Wednesday, the Mets would have to offer Zambrano a contract of at least $2.4 million, 80 percent of his 2006 salary, or lose him to free agency.

According to the New York Daily News, Zambrano - who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, his second - has said that he would be willing to pitch in relief if it would speed his ascension back to the major league level.

Zambrano opened last year in the Mets' rotation but made just five starts before suffering a season-ending injury on May 6 against the Braves, striking out Atlanta's Andruw Jones with a second-inning fastball before bounding off the mound and running directly into the clubhouse, crying.

Zambrano later admitted that he had never been completely healthy since the controversial July 30, 2004 trade with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that cost the Mets left-hander Scott Kazmir.

Some teammates - Pedro Martinez included - were aware of this fact, though Mets coaches said Zambrano had never revealed it to them.

In his six-year major league career, spanning 174 games (96 starts), Zambrano is 45-41 with a 4.45 ERA. With the Mets, Zambrano is 10-14 with a 4.42 ERA in 39 games (35 starts).

The Mets could also non-tender left-hander Dave Williams, a free agent, though general manager Omar Minaya mentioned him in casual conversations as a piece of the team's depth at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

With the Mets thought to be on the fringes of a run at free agent left-hander Barry Zito, the team's pitching rotation as currently comprised could be: left-hander Tom Glavine, right-hander Orlando Hernandez, left-hander Oliver Perez, right-hander John Maine, left-hander Oliver Perez, right-hander Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber.

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