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Tatis set to return to Mets; Delgado unlikely

Tatis set to return to Mets; Delgado unlikely

NEW YORK -- The absence of Carlos Beltran for at least the first month of the Mets' season and the resulting shortage of left-handed power had enhanced the chance that the club would re-sign Carlos Delgado. Now, though there has been no unexpected improvement in Beltran's circumstances and his absence remains likely to reach May, Delgado is less likely to resume his career with the Mets.

A member of the Mets' hierarchy indicated as much on Thursday evening. He said the club's scouts have noticed improvement in Delgado's mobility during the first baseman's recent days playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but he also suggested a need for improvement was quite real. The 38-year-old slugger had appeared so immobile in his early appearances. But the improvement, the person said, has not necessarily made Delgado's return more likely.

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"It still could happen," he said. "There could be a place for Carlos, but it never has been likely, and now it's less likely."

Even if Delgado were to regain the range he demonstrated in 2006 -- his first season with the Mets -- the club's concerns about the right side of the infield would not be alleviated. Delgado at first and Luis Castillo at second wouldn't afford the team sufficient right-side coverage.

The Mets' renewed talks with Fernando Tatis are another indication of diminished interest in Delgado on the Mets' part. The club has all but signed the free agent, a favorite of manager Jerry Manuel, but not only to serve as a right-handed-hitting first baseman who can spell the left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy. Tatis' ability to play any of the six positions -- he doesn't catch, pitch or play center field -- has great appeal to Manuel. And general manager Omar Minaya sees value in the 35-year-old who started games at first base, second, third and left field last season.

Tatis' diminished production last season -- he drove in 48 runs in 340 at-bats after driving in 47 in 273 at-bats in 2008 -- doesn't appear to be a significant factor for the club.

Other than looking for a starting pitcher -- John Smoltz and Chien-Ming Wang are the only remaining candidates -- the Mets are essentially done with personnel changes. The interest in Smoltz is real, but, at this point, the probability of signing him isn't as great as it has been portrayed in reports, the member of the club's hierarchy said. The Cardinals retain interest in Smoltz.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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