Mets still have dollars to spend to improve their rotation

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The New York Mets missed out on
signing a big-name pitcher this winter, which means general manager
Omar Minaya has money left to spend if he can find one in a trade.

"He has room," owner Fred Wilpon said Saturday.

Wilpon visited Tradition Field as his team held its first
workout for pitchers and catchers. The initial full-squad practice
is scheduled for Wednesday.

Looking for help at the top of a suspect rotation, New York
pursued Barry Zito and Daisuke Matsuzaka this offseason but came up
short. The Mets bid about $39 million in an attempt to win the
right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, yet Boston blew them away with a
$51.1 million offer.

The Japanese ace was the MVP of the inaugural World Baseball
Classic last year.

"Of all the pitchers we went after, he would have been the most
interesting for our club and for our city," Wilpon said. "We were
surprised because we felt we were in there heavy."

Zito signed with the San Francisco Giants for $126 million over
seven years.

Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are the only starters who are
guaranteed spots in New York's rotation this season, so there's
room for youngsters such as John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey
and Philip Humber to win roles.

"A few guys are just about there, maybe not quite there. They
may need a little more time in Double-A and Triple-A, but we're
very high," Wilpon said.

Those pitchers could be key components by the time the Mets open
their new stadium -- Citi Field -- in 2009.

"From the economics of it, you want to get off to a good start
in a new stadium," Wilpon said. "We're on time and on budget at
the moment, and we're proceeding very well."

Mets manager Willie Randolph said he does not intend to
pick a captain for the season. When pressed, he said he might
choose Glavine if forced to pick one. "He knows how to lead,"
Randolph said.