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The Amazin' First Base Race

By Michael B. Dowd

Heading into Spring Training, the New York Mets had their fans thinking two ways at first base:

1) Carlos Delgado and his 473 lifetime homers would return to the field with force and shake off hip surgery - to regain his powerful stroke and job as the Mets' starting first baseman. Maybe the Blue & Orange would sign the Black & Blue veteran to a one-dear, while crossing their fingers.

2) Daniel Murphy and his overachieving, hard-working ways would grab the starting job with a super Spring - showing increased power and more importantly-- the ability to look halfway decent defensively. With Gold Glove legend, former Met star and current team broadcaster Keith Hernandez helping the kid out, it should be interesting to see if Murph can master his turf over at 1B.

With the 38-year-old Delagado, who is hinting at retirement, no longer an option, and the jury still out on Murphy, two additional players will be watched closely and have a shot at playing time.

As mentioned in my debut column last week, the Amazin's brought in still-young veteran Mike Jacobs to compete for the first-base job. Mike's a proven masher, having several 20 and 30-plus homer seasons under his belt, but his defense might be as bad as Murphy's.

And now, to make things even more interesting in Port St. Lucie, highly-touted 1b prospect, Ike Davis, son of former big-league hurler, Ron Davis, is off to a great start with a 2-for-3 performance and a grand slam in his first three games. A couple of errors in the field, however, have thrown him into the "bad defense" spotlight, which he needs to shut off immediately.

Murphy, Jacobs and Davis are all lefty swingers, so right-handed hitting Fernando Tatis, also has an opportunity to get some time at first. Expect Tatis to start occasionally against lefties - unless the winner of Dan-Mike-Ike hits righties and lefties alike.

In just a couple of weeks, first base has become a race ... with an April 5th deadline in Flushing, Queens.


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