Mets turn attention to Mulder

Mets turn attention to Mulder

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Mets wait to hear more about Barry Zito's interest, the organization has moved forward with another one of pitching coach Rick Peterson's former pupils, left-hander Mark Mulder.

Mulder's agent, Gregg Clifton, met with team officials on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, and while interest on both sides was described by Clifton as "very preliminary," it was mutual.

"We just had a nice meeting with the Mets where they expressed some interest, and obviously we expressed some interest back to them," Clifton said. "From Mark's perspective, there's the chance to join back with Rick Peterson."

Clifton also represents the Mets' Tom Glavine and said that the veteran left-hander has reached out to Mulder in an attempt to bring him to New York.

"Obviously, our other client, Tom Glavine, has spoken to Mark and is being the official recruiter for the Mets on behalf of Mr. Mulder," Clifton said. "That's still, I think, a ways away. ... I still think that's in the formulation stage as opposed to the transactions stage."

Mets general manager Omar Minaya was tight-lipped in regards to Mulder, confirming that he had met with other free-agent pitchers but stopping short of naming names. When asked about the team's interest in Mulder, Minaya said, "He's on the radar. If he's a free agent, he's on the radar."

Reached at his Alpharetta, Ga., home, Glavine said he would try to entice Mulder, a two-time American League All-Star who paced the circuit with 21 victories in 2001. Hampered this past season with the St. Louis Cardinals by rotator cuff and shoulder injuries, Mulder went 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA in 19 starts.

"I'll try to put in a good word with him," Glavine said. "To me, he'd be an intriguing pickup. I don't know him much; just a couple of hellos. But from what I hear from Gregg and Rick, he's a good guy and good teammate."

Glavine has been in this role of recruiter before with the Mets. Last winter, he was among a welcoming crew that helped guide Billy Wagner -- a country boy in every sense of the term -- through the leafy streets of Connecticut, trying to sell the left-hander on the fact that playing in New York would be more than just city hustle and bustle.

The tactics may be somewhat different with Mulder, beginning with a few innocent phone calls. But Glavine vowed to start in the same place.

"I guess it's the same deal -- you have to sell the city aspect of it," Glavine said. "There's an anxiety guys develop about playing in New York. And I can tell them honestly now that it's not that hard to enjoy yourself [in New York]. You adapt a little, and I think it's a lot easier to adapt if you're with a good team. He'd becoming to a good team, and he'd make it better.

"And, you know it's already a lot easier to sell a guy on playing with us now. I mean, why wouldn't he want to play for us now?"

Barry watch: Minaya said there were no immediate plans for a second meeting with agent Scott Boras this week regarding Zito, but noted, "That could change tonight."

In a group session with reporters near the hotel lobby of the Dolphin Hotel, Boras said the Mets were "very well prepared" for their initial talk Monday evening. A contingent of executives including Minaya, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, and assistants Tony Bernazard and Sandy Johnson relayed the team's interest.

"We'll continue to evaluate the situation until we know their interest level," Boras said.

The Mets and Texas Rangers have been among the clubs with the highest reported interest in Zito, but Boras said other teams had expressed interest as well.

"I don't want to give a number," Boras said, "but there's a number."

Minaya said that he would not necessarily have to wait for the Zito situation to pan out to attempt to trade for a starting pitcher. In fact, a source said the Mets offered outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Chicago White Sox for left-hander Mark Buerhle, but were turned down.

"We can make a trade anytime for a starting pitcher," Minaya said. "We say we're going to look at the Zito situation, but we're also going to look at the marketplace for a potential trade."

The secret weapon? Peterson said he would be interested in resuming his relationship with Zito -- and for that matter, Mulder -- should the opportunities present themselves.

Minaya has said that he would not hesitate to bring Peterson into negotiations regarding Zito, should that be an option to help ease the coveted southpaw's mind toward Queens. Saying, "You always want to do the right thing in the right situation," Peterson acknowledged a fruitful and trusting relationship still exists with Zito.

"I'd like to revisit it with every pitcher I've ever had," Peterson said. "It's hard for me to say that I've ever been together with a guy who could perform to help us win the championship, and not want to be in that relationship. My style of coaching is not as someone's boss. It's something where I develop very strong relationships over the years."

Peterson said that he would expect Zito -- who was 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 34 starts for the Oakland Athletics this year -- to experience even better results in the event he moved from the American League to the National League, simply based upon a different style of play in the Senior Circuit.

"Historically, every high-level pitcher who has moved from AL to NL, you see a spike of performance just because of the way the game is played," Peterson said.

Should Zito not choose the Mets in the end, Peterson said, he would understand.

"Very seldom are these decisions personal decisions," Peterson said. "They're business decisions. Anytime you have player of any caliber that finally gets to a high level of performance in their free agent years, that's first time they have their choice. It's a big moment."

Move in the making: Minaya said he felt confident he would be able to complete a trade before the end of business Tuesday, and he was on his way to holding up his end of the bargain.

Reports indicated the Mets completed a deal to net right-handed reliever Ambiorix Burgos from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for right-hander Brian Bannister, although a source indicated the transaction -- while close -- was not final.

Burgos, 22, was 4-5 with 18 saves and a 5.52 ERA in 68 appearances for Kansas City in 2006. In 73 1/3 innings, Burgos allowed 83 hits and 29 runs (28 earned), walking 37 and striking out 72.

The deal would create a homecoming of sorts for Bannister, who lived in Kansas City for two seasons while his father, 15-year veteran Floyd Bannister, pitched for the Royals from 1988-89.

Bannister made the Mets rotation out of Spring Training in 2006 but lost much of his rookie campaign to hamstring injuries following a late-April game in San Francisco. The 25-year-old was 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in eight games (six starts) for the Mets.

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to reporter Marty Noble contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.