Peterson hired as Mets' pitching coach; New York wants Franco back

Updated: November 5, 2003, 7:57 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Rick Peterson was hired Wednesday as pitching coach of the New York Mets, reuniting him with manager Art Howe in an attempt to turn around a staff that struggled last season.

In their first news conference since making Jim Duquette general manager last week, the Mets also said they want to re-sign the team captain, 43-year-old left-hander John Franco.

"We feel he finished strong for us last year, and there's no reason to believe he won't be able to be with us," Howe said.

Peterson, who had been Oakland's pitching coach for the past six seasons, replaces Vern Ruhle, who was reassigned after the season.

New York had a 4.48 ERA, 10th among the 16 NL teams. The Mets want Peterson to put a pitching program in place through the entire organization.

"The key is we are teaching a system, and that's what's exciting about this opportunity," Peterson said during a telephone conference call.

During his time with the Athletics, Peterson helped develop Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson into one of the top trios in baseball, and the A's staff had the best ERA in the AL during the last two seasons.

Peterson works with the American Sports Medicine Institute lab of Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

"The real issue with getting a biomechanical analysis of a pitcher is to reduce the risk of injury," Peterson said.

In other moves, Rick Waits shifted from bullpen coach to minor league pitching coordinator; Bobby Floyd moved from manager of Triple-A Norfolk to the Mets' third-base coach; and infield coach Matt Galante, who also had been third-base coach, shifted to the dugout. Don Baylor remains the bench coach.

Howe called Peterson a "very dear friend" and said trust would be the key to Peterson's relationship with pitchers. Still, Howe admitted, "It's hard to judge how far along he can bring them."

Peterson, who was given a three-year contract, is the son of former Pittsburgh Pirates executive Harding Peterson. He lives in Wall, N.J., and was tired of being away from home -- his family didn't want to move to California.

"When it came time to put that 'For Sale' sign in your front yard, everybody had second thoughts," Peterson said.

For now, Howe thinks he can operate without a bullpen coach.

"If not, we'll make adjustments down the road," he said.

Franco came back from reconstructive elbow surgery in May 2002 and went 0-3 with a 2.62 ERA and two saves in 38 games.

"We want him as an organization. I think Johnny wants to be here," Duquette said. "I'm optimistic, but until you really start negotiating contracts, you don't know."

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