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01/04/10 9:35 AM EST

Delgado returns to action in Puerto Rico

Veteran aims to regain form following hip surgery

In his first game since undergoing hip surgery in May, free-agent first baseman Carlos Delgado went 1-for-4 while playing in Puerto Rico's Winter League on Sunday night.

Delgado batted cleanup and served as the designated hitter for the Carolina Giants, with his only hit coming on a fly ball to short left field in the sixth inning.

The 37-year-old was limited to just 26 games in his fourth season with the Mets in 2009. New York hasn't expressed much desire to re-sign Delgado, and interest from other teams around the Majors has seemed relatively obscure thus far. But that could change if Delgado proves to be healthy while playing this winter.

So far, so good, the Puerto Rico native told The Associated Press.

"I felt better than I expected, for the time I spent without playing," Delgado said from Carolina, Puerto Rico. "I hadn't seen live pitching since May. The most important thing is this was a step in the right direction."

Delgado batted .298 with four homers and 23 RBIs in his shortened 2009 campaign. He then went on the disabled list with a hip injury on May 16, retroactive to May 11, and underwent surgery on his right hip about a week later. During his last full season in '08, he sported a .271 batting average and notched 38 homers and 115 RBIs while suiting up in 159 games for the Mets.

Delgado, a career .280 hitter with 473 homers in 17 seasons in the big leagues -- his first 12 coming in Toronto -- last signed a four-year, $52-million contract with a fifth-year vesting option in '05 with the Marlins that expired this past season.

The Orioles have been the team most linked to Delgado, though the Mets could choose to bring the lefty slugger back at a much cheaper price.

Delgado's current team is 18-15 and in second place in the Puerto Rican Winter League, sitting 3 1/2 games back of the Arecibo Lobos. The league's regular season concludes Jan. 14, with the playoffs beginning on Jan. 15, followed by the Caribbean Series, which runs Feb. 2-8.

The New York Daily News reported Saturday that Delgado will be limited to the DH role while playing on artificial turf and will only play first base on natural grass.

Delgado also told the AP on Sunday he's "not afraid of sliding."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.