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Mets looking to fill out rotation

Mets look to find quality out of quantity of arms

NEW YORK -- Pitchers and catchers is what they call it now. For the Mets, it's pitchers and pitchers. And pitchers and pitchers, with the occasional catcher. With the addition of Chan Ho Park, the roster of pitchers for the Spring Training camp includes 32 names. The catchers number merely eight, most of them invited to camp so the glut of pitchers can be accommodated. The term 40-man roster assumes a different meaning for the Mets.

Among the 40 are one man who may already have turned 40, another who will turn 41 before camp ends and young arms whose statistical resumes don't approach the achievements of Tom Glavine. Mike Pelfrey is the most prominent among them, as well as the one most likely to join Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Oliver Perez in the Opening Day rotation.

The Mets won't even publicly acknowledge Maine as the likely No. 3 starter, strange because they speak of Oliver Perez as if he were a lock for a rotation slot and for 15 victories. No matter, Maine and Oliver can't fill more than voids in the projected rotation, and, even with the signing of Park to a one-year, $600,000 contract, Pelfrey appears to be the favorite for the fifth assignment.

In one way, the Mets need Pelfrey to win it; they need to get younger in the rotation even if Maine and Perez, both 25, are parts of it. Glavine, 41 next month, and El Duque, his birth certificate open to interpretation, are closing in on retirement. The club must establish at least one young starter this year.

The scouting and player departments would like two -- Pelfrey and Philip Humber preferably -- as a means of validating their drafts of 2005 (Pelfrey) and 2004 (Humber) and the efforts made since then with each.

"I've seen that in other organizations, guys pushing young drafted pitchers," general manager Omar Minaya said Thursday. "That won't happen here. We're about winning first."

Moreover, the Mets' plans for 2007 include a return to the postseason. And if Pelfrey and Humber were factors in those plans from the beginning of the season, they might be worn down before Sept. 1. Neither has pitched 200 innings as a professional. Neither is accustomed to the workload a big-league starter handles.

With the club pointing to the postseason, 2007 isn't the year for both to learn. The Mets of 1984 -- with Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling making 31 and 33 starts -- had two rookie starters as regular contributors and won 90 games. The Yankees of 1986 had rookies Doug Drabek (21 starts) and Bob Tewksbury (20) and won 90 games. And the Giants of 2003 had rookies Jesse Foppert (21) and Jerome Williams (21), and won 100 games and a division title.

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They were exceptions, though. None of those teams entered those seasons as the Mets enter 2007, as defending division champions and favorites.

"How Pelfrey and Humber will react to pitching more innings," Minaya said, "is something we have to look at."

The general manager acknowledged the chance of both being in the Opening Day rotation is remote.

Less than a day after that acknowledgement, the Mets made the possibility less likely, signing Park, the 33-year-old right-handed veteran of 12 seasons and 274 starts in the big leagues. Park has gone 33-33 since leaving the Dodgers following the 2002 season.

"We are happy to add a veteran pitcher like Chan Ho to our staff," Minaya said in a statement. "As we approach spring training he certainly gives Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson another option to consider as we put together our rotation."

Less than a day after that acknowledgement, the Mets made the possibility less likely by signing Park, the 33-year-old right-handed veteran of 12 seasons and 274 starts in the big leagues. The Mets signed veteran pitcher Aaron Sele to a Minor League contract two weeks ago.

And if none of it works out, Minaya said, he could again lean on the Wilpon treasury to reinforce the team come midsummer.

"We do have some money left for the All-Star break," Minaya said. "I hope we're in position to be able to use that."

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

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