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Young pitchers look to Valverde for veteran leadership

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.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.
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