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Mets' Alderson Expects Santana To Be Ready For Spring Training

NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Expecting no major moves before the start of spring training next month, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson thinks his payroll-cutting team can improve on last year's 77-85 record and fourth-place finish in the NL East.

"I think our greatest avenue of improvement is internal. I think that if you look at the pitching as well as the position players, we've got great room for improvement," he said during a conference call Thursday. "And I'm not talking about just the general improvement in players as they get more experience and that sort of thing."

With their owners being sued by the trustee seeking money for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, the Mets traded Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran during the summer, then didn't make an offer as All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes left last month for a $106 million, six-year deal with the Miami Marlins.

New York added relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, who were both introduced during the call, and acquired outfielder Andres Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramirez from San Francisco for center fielder Angel Pagan.

Its latest move was to keep outfielder Scott Hairston with a $1.1 million, one-year contract, a deal pending a physical.

"Basically we're looking to fill out the bench as well as maybe the last spot in the bullpen, right- and left-handed hitting outfielders, somebody who can play shortstop for us on a stopgap basis but more importantly if (Ruben) Tejada, assuming he's playing there, were to get injured. Swingman — we continue to try to add depth at Triple-A to give us potential for an emergency callup," Alderson said.

New York figures its starting rotation will include Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and R.A. Dickey, who combined to go 39-43 last year.

Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, hasn't pitched in the major leagues since Sept. 2, 2010, and is coming back from shoulder surgery.

"Right now we expect him to go through a normal spring training, but the ultimate test is going be how he responds and whether he's able to come back, as I said, on normal days' rest," Alderson said. "I don't think that's anything we can predict with any accuracy. I certainly can't assure you that that's going to happen, but that's certainly what we hope and right now what we expect."

Alderson said the Mets might re-sign Chris Young, who had shoulder surgery in May and was limited to four games last season. Any other potential starter New York adds likely would be the type of pitcher who goes back and forth from Triple-A to the majors.

"We've got five guys that we like, five guys that deserve to pitch in a rotation," Alderson said. "All of our guys were remarkably dependable."

Above all, Alderson said gains will have to come from players already within the organization.

"If you look at the starting pitching, Johan has a huge potential upside for us," he said. "There's upside with Pelfrey. Neise has a chance to be a dominant pitcher. R.A. Dickey was solid for us last year, but he did not have a career year. Dillon Gee established himself.

"There's room for improvement with all of these guys. Will it happen? I don't know. But there's definitely room for significant improvement with all of these guys, and the same is true of our offensive club."

NOTES: Alderson said contracts with free agents are taking longer to finalize because the Mets have added blood analysis that in the past had not taken place until players reported to spring training. It was prompted by Ronny Paulino, who went on the disabled list last year because of anemia. "It's prudent to do," Alderson said, "particularly where there's a possibility of some sort of illness that may be prevalent in say a player's offseason area of residence, the Dominican Republic or other places in the Caribbean, maybe south Florida, maybe other things going on in other places."

Do you expect to see Santana back for spring training? Sound off below...

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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