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nmigliore

Mets Bring Back Alou/Easley

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NEW YORK -- The Mets, beset with many questions about their 2008

season, provided two answers 31 days after their season ended

prematurely. The club exercised its option on the contract of Moises

Alou and re-signed free agent Damion Easley on Wednesday. So now the

Mets have identified, respectively, the player that they hope will play

120 games in left field and the one they see as their reserve second

baseman and backup outfielder. Greater issues -- Luis Castillo, Tom

Glavine and Paul Lo Duca -- remain. But it's a start for a team that

didn't finish well.

To bring back Alou for a second season, the Mets merely notified the

41-year-old veteran that they exercised his option. They had until Nov.

15 to do so. Alou, a critical figure in the team's fast start last

season and a force in the batting order late in the year, will earn

$7.5 million in 2008, a bargain if he can remain healthy and produce at

the level he established in '07. Alou batted .341 with 14 home runs, 49

RBIs, 51 runs, .392 on-base percentage and .524 slugging percentage in

87 games (328 at-bats). A 30-game hitting streak, the longest in

franchise history, increased his average from .313 to .341. Alou hit

safely in 11 of 12 games before the streak.

Alou said he was pleased to return because of "unfinished business" that he said he and the other players have.

"After what happened to us, I really want another shot at winning a

world championship," Alou said from the Dominican during a conference

call. "I really want to achieve the things I came here for. ...

Hopefully, [2008] will be our year.

"I'm angry at what happened last year, and our fans deserved better.

I'm coming back to help us win a championship. From the first day of

Spring Training, we have to show people that 2008 will be different."

Alou said he began working out three weeks ago, a month earlier than he

usually begins, and that his objective is to play in 140 games,

something he has done five times in his 15 full seasons and not in his

last three.

"I want to make sure I'm 100 percent healthy and strong, and be in the best shape I've ever been in my career," Alou said.

General manager Omar Minaya spoke of Alou's influence in the clubhouse

as an another element of the left fielder's value. Another player

recently acknowledged that Alou was tentative about exercising his

influence while he was assigned to the disabled list, but he made a

point of approaching Carlos Beltran following the Mets' series in Miami

in September to urge him to play even though the center fielder had

been injured in successive games.

Easley, who turns 38 in 12 days, agreed to a one-year contract worth $950,000.

Easley was in the midst of a terrific season as a utilityman before he

suffered a gruesome and catastrophic left ankle sprain on Aug. 18. He

started 46 games -- 36 at second base, eight in the outfield and two at

first base -- and, more often than not, acquitted himself well. His

power was an important component on the bench. Easley batted .280 with

26 RBIs, 10 home runs and a .280 batting average in 193 at-bats.

Minaya called Easley "one of the best bench players," and he said that manager "Willie [Randolph] wanted him all along."

Minaya said the presence of Easley doesn't preclude the Mets from

re-signing Jose Valentin, but if the club re-signs Castillo, as it

hopes to do, and retains Ruben Gotay, as it plans to do, the need for

Valentin would be greatly diminished.

Minaya also said he has ongoing conversations with Lo Duca's representative. He said the Mets have "good interest."

Alou and Easley were two of the 14 Mets eligible for free agency.

Easley is one of the nine Mets who had filed. The other eight include

Lo Duca, Castillo, Marlon Anderson, Ramon Castro, Shawn Green, Aaron

Sele, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Mike DiFelice.

ARTICLE LINK:http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071031&content_id=2289726&vkey=news_nym&fext=.jsp&c_id=nym

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Good to see they are bringing both back.. Alou was tremendous, and we would of done alot better if he wasn't hurt mid-season.. His hitting streak broke Mets record for longest hit-streak.. Great fielder.. Easley was also a big help off the bench last year.. Had some nice pop in his bat (started off hot with like 10 HR in 25-30 or so ABs).. I really am glad to Easley back, I like him and it sucked to see him go down with a bad injury last year.

Edited by nmigliore

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