Wagner eager to show Mets what he can do

Wagner eager to show Mets what he can do

NEW YORK -- Billy Wagner has been in the Mets' clubhouse since Sunday, and the closer, who underwent Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery last September, is getting a little eager.

"It's not much fun to be healthy and watching," Wagner said before Wednesday's game with the Braves. "When you're healthy and watching, it's kind of depressing."

Wagner is back and healthy, 11 months after he last pitched in a game for the Mets. He is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list either Thursday or Friday.

That activation will start Wagner's audition, both for the end of this season and all of the next, though the Mets reportedly placed him on waivers on Wednesday. If he clears those waivers by Friday afternoon, as expected, he can be traded to any Major League club. Any team that claims him would have until Tuesday to work out a deal with the Mets.

Wagner would be eligible for another team's postseason roster provided he is traded by the end of the month.

In the meantime, Wagner is aiming to prove that he's still the dominant late-inning pitcher he's been all his career.

"I've got the expectation that I can be the best," Wagner said. "You always have to [re-establish yourself]."

Wagner isn't the only Met looking to re-establish himself down the stretch. Carlos Beltran has started running -- a stride toward his possible return from a bone bruise in his right knee.

J.J. Putz will pitch in a simulated game on Saturday and, if all goes well, head to Class-A Brooklyn for a rehab assignment. Since Putz is eligible to be a free agent at season's end, he's looking to showcase a healthy right elbow in the final month of the season.

The schedule isn't as clear for John Maine, who is still limited to long-toss.

Such young players as Daniel Murphy, Anderson Hernandez and Bobby Parnell are also auditioning for more playing time in 2010.

The influx of on-field auditions puts manager Jerry Manuel and the coaching staff into the role of evaluators -- something Manuel said can be tricky this time of year.

"We have to be careful in those evaluations," Manuel said. "If you play well above .500, then you don't think you're evaluating mediocrity. If you're below .500, and you're looking for something to hang on to, then you might fall into the trap of falling in love with mediocrity.

"What's difficult is evaluating and then taking pieces and understanding where they fit in the context of a winning team or with other additional pieces. Some people tend to play better when they're out of it than when they're in it."

The Mets wouldn't mind seeing some players elevate their game down the stretch. After posting a five-game winning streak at the end of July, the Mets have lost 12 of 19. That would make Manuel's job a little easier.

Of course, so will having Wagner in the bullpen.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.