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Mets' Randolph, Wright dream about Zito

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Willie Randolph would love to see
Barry Zito pitching for his team next season.

"I like what we have, but Barry's one of the best pitchers in
the game, and if the organization sees fit that we can fit him into
our budget, then we'd love to have him," Randolph said Wednesday
at the Mets' annual holiday party.

"He's the best pitcher on the market right now, and I think he
could help our ball club. It would be nice to have him under our
tree," he said.

Randolph, who led the Mets to their first NL East title since
1988, is entering his third season as manager and the final year of
his contract. General manager Omar Minaya wants to sign him to an
extension.

"We are talking to his agent. They have expressed to us that
this is going to take some time," Minaya said. "He's still under
contract for another year. There is no timeframe for doing these
things. We would like to be able to get something done."

Kris Benson was Santa at last year's party and his wife, Anna,
showed up in a low-cut Santa costume, a move that upset some in the
organization. About a month later, Benson was traded to the
Baltimore Orioles.

This year's Santa was All-Star third baseman David Wright.

"I didn't have quite as good-looking helpers as Kris had last
year," Wright said. "No Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Claus was a little too
sexy last year and I think from now on we'll have Santa's Helpers
help out."

Randolph and utilityman Julio Franco served as elves this time,
handing out presents to over 100 children from the city's public
schools.

Zito also has been sought after by the Texas Rangers. His agent,
Scott Boras, has said he envisions a six- or seven-year contract.

"We said that we are going to look at free agents to try and
improve our pitching," Minaya said. "He is one of the guys we are
still considering. He's a proven winner, he's given innings. But we
feel that our pitching staff, the way it is right now, is similar
to the second half of last year and in some way might be better."

New York currently has a projected rotation that includes Tom
Glavine and Orlando Hernandez, with John Maine, Dave Williams,
Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber competing for the
other three spots at the start of the season.

Pedro Martinez, coming off rotator cuff surgery, hopes to return
during the second half of the season. Minaya said Mets trainers
planned to visit Martinez in the Dominican Republic next week to
track his progress.

As for Zito, the Mets appear uncomfortable with a six- or
seven-year deal.

"If doesn't make sense, were comfortable with our starting
pitching and our overall pitching," Minaya said.

Wright is willing to help recruit Zito.

"If we get that far and Barry decides to come and visit New
York, I'd be more than open to showing Barry around and trying to
sell him on New York," Wright said.