NEW YORK -- Mets closer Bobby Parnell has been throwing since the start of January, according to general manager Sandy Alderson, keeping him on track to be ready for Spring Training.
Parnell flew to Los Angeles last week for a follow-up examination by Dr. Robert Watkins, who replaced a herniated disk in his neck last September. The right-hander lost approximately 30 pounds following the surgery, prompting concerns from manager Terry Collins.
But examinations in New York City last month and more recently in California revealed that Parnell is back on track.
"Everything looks good," said Alderson. "No restrictions. His weight is back. His muscle tone is there. The surgery is progressing nicely, so we were very much reassured. But even assuming he's healthy, we still don't have much experience in that 'pen."
In his first full season as closer, Parnell converted 22 of his 26 save chances, with a 2.16 ERA. The Mets still hope to sign a veteran reliever to provide back-end insurance for their bullpen, and they are prepared to offer a Major League deal to do it. With roughly five weeks remaining in the offseason, more than three dozen such relievers remain unsigned.
Mets expect Ike, Duda to compete for first base
NEW YORK -- Awkwardness, Sandy Alderson said, should not exist in Mets camp this spring -- not even under the increasingly likely scenario that both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are in the clubhouse together, battling for the starting first-base job.
To that end, Alderson spoke with Davis last month at David Wright's wedding in California, briefly touching on the trade rumors that have dogged him all offseason.
"He was in a good mood," Alderson said. "I don't think any of this talk over the winter has bothered him. I think he's anxious to get to Spring Training and show what he can do. I was certainly pleased by that."
What once seemed highly unlikely -- Davis reporting to camp alongside Duda -- is now a probability. Months of engaging teams such as the Brewers, Orioles and Pirates in trade talks has led to nothing more than stalemates. The Mets want a young, talented controllable pitcher in return for Davis, who is two years removed from a 32-homer season. No club has been willing to surrender that.
As a result, the Mets now expect Davis to compete directly with Duda for the first-base job, with the loser either heading to the bench or the Minors.
"We're not going to move Ike just to move Ike -- or any other player, for that matter," Alderson said in a telephone interview this week. "This is a trade market, not a yard sale. And right now, we're perfectly happy to go into Spring Training with Davis and Duda both on the team. Frankly, we're not that actively engaged in trade discussions involving Ike at this point. I think that underscores our willingness to go into camp with both."
The Mets spent much of their time at last month's Winter Meetings talking to other teams about Davis, meeting with the Brewers in particular multiple times. Nothing came of it.
"You can only ask someone to dance so many times before you get the message," Alderson said. "We've been told by a variety of clubs that what we're asking is not unrealistic. But if they think they can get it or something else for less, that's what they're going to try to do. So be it. It's not like we're holding out for Babe Ruth."
Shortstop plans revised; Mets likely to start Tejada
NEW YORK -- One month ago, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said that if he acquired a shortstop to replace Ruben Tejada this winter, it would almost certainly come about via trade.
Now, even that possibility has evaporated.
"I'd say that trade possibilities -- just with the passage of time and knowing more about various situations -- a trade is probably less likely now," Alderson said.
That leaves only the free-agent market, which begins and ends with Stephen Drew. But asked if he considered signing Drew "extremely unlikely," the GM did not quibble with the choice of words.
"The same three alternatives exist: sign a free agent, make a trade or go with what we have, subject to probably bringing in a backup to Tejada," Alderson said. "I'd say right now, it's probably more likely that we will go with Option C, which is Ruben at shortstop with the addition of a backup."
Backup middle infielders on the open market include Ronny Cedeno, a former Met; Cesar Izturis, whom the Mets discussed at the Winter Meetings; and Justin Turner and Omar Quintanilla, whom the Mets non-tendered earlier this winter. A source said the team has not had any contact with Turner since that time.
The Mets and Red Sox have been the only teams seriously linked this winter to Drew, who hit .253 with 13 home runs last year in Boston. Tejada, who has never played a full, healthy season in the big leagues, hit .202 with a .519 OPS in 57 games.
• Mets prospects Cory Vaughn, Danny Muno and Jack Leathersich all revealed on Twitter that the team has extended them non-roster invitations to big league camp. Though the Mets have not confirmed any list of non-roster invitees, they also expect pitcher Rafael Montero to compete for a job in camp, as well. Top overall prospect Noah Syndergaard should also be present.
• Don't expect the Mets to sign a starting pitcher anytime soon. Multiple agents predicted this week that the market for Minor League deals will not heat up until the remaining top free agents -- Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza and the rest -- find new teams. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, meanwhile, said he hopes to sign a veteran pitcher to such an unguaranteed deal, with the intent of pitting him against Jenrry Mejia, Montero and Jacob deGrom in a Spring Training competition.