New Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez has a message for the Phillies and the rest of the NL East.

"Of course, we're going to try to win the division. Of course, we're going to be the front-runner. Of course, we're going to be the team to beat," he said yesterday.

Four days after agreeing to a $37 million, three-year contract, K-Rod was confident the Mets would put consecutive September collapses behind and overtake the World Series champion Phillies in ruling the NL East.

"I don't want there to be a controversy or the other ball clubs in that division to take it personally or take it in a bad way," he said.

Rodriguez saved a major- league record 62 games for the Los Angeles Angels last season. Already a three-time all-star, Rodriguez turns 27 next month.


Former Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood, who has revived his injury-riddled career as a reliever, finalized a $20.5 million, two-year deal with Cleveland, whose high expectations in 2008 crashed in a succession of early season blown saves by an underachieving and unpredictable bullpen.

In 10 years, Wood, who saved 34 games in his first season finishing for Chicago, has gone from rising star to a question mark, from the front of the rotation to the back of the bullpen, and now from one league to the other.


The Colorado Rockies and reliever Alan Embree, who went 2-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 70 games for the Oakland Athletics last season, agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2010. . . . Reliever Kyle Farnsworth and the Kansas City Royals completed a $9.25 million, two-year contract. Traded July 30 from the New York Yankees to Detroit for catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the hard-throwing righthander went 2-3 with a 4.48 ERA and one save in 61 appearances overall last season, then filed for free agency.