PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Parnell are locks for the bullpen -- that much has been certain for some time. But three other relievers may not be far behind.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Wednesday that D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz and Tim Byrdak are all front-runners to make the team, despite a wide-open bullpen competition. That may be no surprise for Carrasco and Buchholz, who both entered camp on big league contracts. But Byrdak -- who held lefties to a .213 average in 64 games for the Astros last season -- is here on a Minor League deal and figured to compete with fellow lefties Taylor Tankersley, Mike O'Connor and Oliver Perez on even ground.
"That battle for those left-handed jobs is going to be interesting," Collins said.
Though Carrasco and Perez have asked Collins to consider them as starting pitchers, both are more likely to make the team as relievers. Carrasco, Perez, Dillon Gee and Jenrry Mejia will all battle front-runners Chris Young and Chris Capuano for the two vacant spots in Collins' rotation.
Reyes won't set contract deadline for Mets
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Baseball players are fraternal creatures. They play, they bond, they take home paychecks -- but not of them go about that latter bit in precisely the same way.
For example: unlike his countryman, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will not set any sort of deadline to complete a contract extension.
"I'm not Albert Pujols, man," Reyes said, laughing. "I'm Jose Reyes. We're kind of different ballplayers."
If Reyes and the Mets can work out a new deal before Reyes hits free agency next November, great. If not, he -- like Pujols -- will become an elite free agent next winter.
"Right now it's not in my head, because I still have one more year here," Reyes said upon reporting to camp Wednesday. "I don't even want to talk about my contract, because I just want to play baseball. I need to stay healthy on the field and play a full season without any problem, so that's why I don't think about my contract. I just want to play this season and see what's going to happen after."
That does not mean Reyes will refuse to negotiate with his team during the season, as Pujols recently did with the Cardinals. It simply means the shortstop won't worry about it until the time comes to worry.
If Reyes enjoys a healthy season as he last did in 2008, he should command top dollar -- a nine-figure contract, for certain -- on the free-agent market. But if he again battles injury and produces numbers more akin to his .282 average, 11 home runs and 30 steals of a year ago, he may make somewhat less.
Such is the risk and potential reward of waiting -- a risk that Reyes has already embraced.
"This is my first time going to be a free agent, so I don't know what's going to happen, to be honest with you," he said. "But the thing that I know is I'm ready to go. I'm real excited about this year."
For now, center field is Beltran's to roam
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Center field may not be an open competition, after all.
Though Angel Pagan will have a chance to win the starting center-field job over Carlos Beltran, that job, for now, is effectively Beltran's to lose.
"When he walks in the first day, he's the center fielder," manager Terry Collins said Wednesday.
If the 33-year-old Beltran proves incapable of manning the position at an elite level, he could eventually give way to Pagan -- all involved parties will discuss the situation when they report to camp this week. But for now, Beltran is first on the depth chart in center field, with Pagan tentatively stationed in right.
"We're going to sit down and feel out Carlos and make sure we come up with a game plan," Collins said. "But when he comes in here, if he says, 'Look, I think I'm healthy enough to play center field,' then we're going to put him out there and make an adjustment as we go."
Paulino's visa issues keep catcher from camp
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Visa issues may prevent backup catcher Ronny Paulino from reporting to camp on time, Mets manager Terry Collins said Wednesday.
Paulino, who signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract in December, is expected to back up starting catcher Josh Thole in what could become a platoon situation. Paulino, a right-handed batter, is a career .338 hitter against left-handed pitching.
Collins expects his other 56 players all to report to camp by Saturday.