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Piazza in talks to go to first

AP   2003-05-09 11:31:30  

NEW YORK -- Baseball's best-hitting catcher may eventually be moving out from behind the plate.

After years of speculation, the New York Mets talked with all-star catcher Mike Piazza yesterday about beginning the process of learning to play first base.

"We had a very good conversation with Mike," said general manager Steve Phillips. "It was a very frank and open conversation. Mike was very receptive to the idea and the concept."

Phillips and manager Art Howe met with Piazza before last night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But in a move that appeared to annoy their star player, Phillips and Howe discussed it publicly before broaching it with Piazza.

"I'm a little perplexed about the whole thing," Piazza said before the meeting. "I don't know what's going on. Everyone has talked about it so much by now that it's paralysis by analysis."

Howe and Phillips said earlier this week that they didn't expect to talk to Piazza about a possible move in the near future. But somehow that changed yesterday after discussions between Phillips, the coaching staff and ownership.

"This is the very first step in what will be a process with an undefined timeline," Phillips said. "It's not as easy as taking a couple of grounders."

Piazza is considered by many to be the greatest-hitting catcher ever. A 10-time all-star, Piazza has hit 339 home runs in his career as a catcher -- 12 shy of Carlton Fisk's record. He had more homers and RBIs in his first 10 full years as a catcher than any other player in history and his .321 batting average was one point behind Bill Dickey.

Piazza's hitting prowess while also catching has been a source of pride for him and he has often indicated he would be reluctant to change positions.

"Mike's our catcher," Phillips said.

"When this thing starts to progress, he'll be our catcher who also plays first base. Where it goes beyond that I don't know."

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