PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It was not long after Jose Valverde's arrival at Mets camp Sunday that a small crowd of new teammates gathered around the 35-year-old veteran, pulling up chairs. That's the type of scene the Mets are eager to see on a regular basis this spring as Valverde fights for a roster spot amidst a group of far younger pitchers.
Though Valverde has served at least as a part-time closer every year since 2003, he will not do so in New York unless Bobby Parnell suffers an injury. So aside from giving the Mets an experienced setup man alongside fellow veteran Kyle Farnsworth, much of Valverde's value could stem from the wisdom gleaned over an 11-year career.
"I'm here because I want to support the team," Valverde said, noting that he relied on veterans such as Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez early in his career with the D-backs. "If one of the other guys is the closer, that's fine by me. I want to do my job and support the young kids."
Mostly, Valverde is jazzed up simply to be with the Mets, a team he nearly signed with two winters ago and has always admired from afar. Aside from the perks of living in New York -- "I can go shopping every morning," he laughed -- Valverde has family in the tri-state area and has wanted to play there "for a long time." He mentioned Jenrry Mejia and Gonzalez Germen in particular as two pitchers he would like to mentor this spring.
Granderson acclimates to Mets' environment
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This is all new to Curtis Granderson. When Granderson stepped out of his car for the first time Sunday at the Mets' Spring Training complex, he took a few steps toward the media center before realizing he was going the wrong way.
Once he found the correct route, Granderson posed for pictures in the Mets dugout and said all the right things about his new employers and teammates.
"Excitement," was how Granderson summed up his feelings about joining the Mets. "Nerves also -- I think you wouldn't be human if you didn't have that."
The most expensive piece of New York's offseason shopping list, Granderson cost the Mets $60 million over four seasons. The hope around Flushing is that he will give their lineup some much-needed thump, considering the 84 homers he hit from 2011-12 with the Yankees.
Given all that he accomplished during four years in the Bronx, Granderson's offseason comment that "true New Yorkers are Mets fans" struck a chord with some of his old loyalists. But Granderson clarified his words on Sunday, saying he never meant to be anything but grateful.
"It definitely wasn't a shot by any means to anybody," Granderson said. "The organization from top to bottom, including the fans, have been absolutely amazing for me and my foundation over the four years I had with the New York Yankees. It was just something interesting I had heard over time being in the city of New York. I felt like saying it, but it definitely wasn't anything that was meant in a negative way."
Mets will wear patch to honor Kiner in 2014
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets will honor late broadcaster Ralph Kiner throughout the 2014 season with a commemorative uniform patch on the right sleeve of their jerseys, the team announced Sunday.
The Mets also plan to "celebrate the life and legacy of Kiner" during a pregame ceremony on Opening Day at Citi Field, including a video tribute and the unveiling of a commemorative logo on the left field wall. Kiner's five children will attend and participate in the ceremony.
In addition, the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum will debut a "Kiner's Korner" display dedicated to the broadcaster, with artifacts and memorabilia chronicling his 52-year history with the Mets. The team will also paint a Kiner logo on the grass behind home plate at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.
Kiner passed away Feb. 6 at the age of 91.
• Parnell called his surprise mound work Friday "a little confidence booster" in his rehab from neck surgery. The Mets originally did not expect Parnell to take the mound until the end of this month, but the closer did so on a limited basis Friday after consulting with trainers.
• Right-hander Jeremy Hefner tweeted Sunday that doctors cleared him to begin a throwing program for the first time since Tommy John surgery in August. Hefner, who posted a 4.34 ERA in 24 appearances last year, could return to the Mets late this season.