LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mets should soon have a much better idea of whether Bobby Parnell can be their Opening Day closer.
Parnell, who underwent surgery in September to remove a herniated disk from his neck, is scheduled for a checkup next week with the doctor who performed his operation. If all goes well, according to Mets manager Terry Collins, he could be cleared to resume baseball activities for the first time since his surgery.
"We've got to wait to see how he shows up, where he's at in a month," Collins said, noting that he expects Parnell to report to Spring Training as early as January. "He hasn't done much yet, so he's got to get himself in shape, get his legs underneath him and start throwing. We'll just have to wait to see."
Enjoying a breakout season prior to his injury, Parnell saved 22 games in 26 chances with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 50 innings and walking 12. But he lost significant weight following his surgery, eliciting concern from Collins.
Given that uncertainty surrounding Parnell, the Mets are understandably making contingency plans. The team has checked in on late-inning free agents Chris Perez and Mitchell Boggs, according to a source, though it may be another few weeks before general manager Sandy Alderson strikes any deals. Ideally, the Mets would like to add one veteran to a mix of young relievers that includes Parnell, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen.
Other Opening Day bullpen candidates are Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni. Mets officials at the Winter Meetings have been talking up in particular the potential of Walters, who is 26 -- old for a prospect -- but who struck out more than a batter per inning at Double-A Binghamton while leading the Minors with 38 saves.
Collins has faith in Tejada as starting shortstop
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Saying be believes Ruben Tejada has "learned a tremendous lesson," Mets manager Terry Collins on Tuesday expressed comfort with the idea of using Tejada as his Opening Day shortstop.
"This is his career that's at stake here," Collins said. "If he's willing to pay the price and get himself to where he was a couple years ago, then he can play a long time."
Delivering that same message to Tejada at the end of this season, Collins believes it resonated with a player whose on-base percentage dipped dramatically each year from age 21 through 23. Tejada was among a handful of players who recently traveled to Michigan for a team-supervised nutrition and conditioning camp, with plans to return next month.
Whether that pays dividends will be crucial for the Mets, who appear increasingly unlikely to give away Tejada's job. As general manager Sandy Alderson first noted after Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cardinals last month, the market for shortstops has proven much more expensive than the front office first anticipated. Barring a trade, the Mets seem unlikely to upgrade at the position. Instead, they could sign a veteran -- Cesar Izturis' name has been floated -- to mentor and support Tejada.
Stephen Drew, the one clear upgrade still available through free agency, could command a deal similar to Peralta's and is not currently in the Mets' crosshairs. Asked directly about Drew on Monday, Alderson replied that "we're looking at all the shortstop possibilities, even the ones we have internally."
"Right now it's a baseball decision," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said of his team's decision to ignore the Scott Boras client. "Sandy hasn't come to say, 'Hey, we have to sign Stephen Drew' -- or anybody else, for that matter. They're looking at things on the whole, so it's not financial at this point."
Source: Hefner near Minors deal with Mets
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mets have agreed to a Minor League deal with right-hander Jeremy Hefner after non-tendering him last week, according to a source. The team has not commented on the deal because it is not yet official.
Hefner, who posted a 4.34 ERA in 24 games last season, will spend next season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right elbow. He will be able to use the Mets' facilities in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to rehab, though not as a member of the 40-man roster and not on a Major League salary.
In exchange, the Mets have Hefner back under team control in the hopes that he can help them as soon as September 2014. Hefner underwent his surgery, which typically requires a 12-14-month recovery, in August.
• Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 15, according to Collins, with the Mets' first workout scheduled for Feb. 17.
• With the Mets unlikely to acquire a veteran catcher through free agency, Collins said he is "comfortable" with the notion of Anthony Recker reprising his backup role to Travis d'Arnaud in 2014. Jon Niese in particular enjoyed throwing to Recker, who hit .215 with six home runs in 151 plate appearances last season.