Newsday’s Anthony Rieber and Ken Davidoff report that Mets CF Mike Cameron is facing surgery this Friday.

When Mike Cameron played Santa Claus at the Mets’ Christmas party Wednesday at Shea Stadium, he delivered some bad news along with the presents: His left wrist was hurting.

An MRI found cartilage damage and the Mets’ centerfielder had arthroscopic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan on Friday that will force him to miss the start of the 2005 season, general manager Omar Minaya revealed yesterday.

So with or without Carlos Beltran, the Mets won’t have Cameron in center on Opening Day in Cincinnati on April 4. The 31-year-old first hurt the wrist on a swing in a Sept. 21 game in Montreal, an injury originally diagnosed as a strained tendon, and might have aggravated it during offseason workouts.

“He was working out and he was feeling some discomfort,” Minaya said. “And we said, ‘Why don’t we get it checked out?’ I guess during his workout he must have felt something that wasn’t right.”

Cameron won’t swing a bat until mid-March. The Mets hope he’ll be ready to play by April 15; Minaya said the worst-case scenario is early May.

“Naturally, I’m disappointed,” said Cameron, who hit .231 with 30 homers and 76 RBIs in his first season as a Met. “But I’d rather this be taken care of now than to have the surgery during the season.”

Minaya said “we’re going to look at the options” when it comes to replacing Cameron for the short term. Joe McEwing and Jeff Duncan are the only players on the roster with centerfield experience, but Minaya will likely improve those unappealing choices with a minor signing or trade before spring training.

Regarding a major option – free agent Beltran – Minaya seems willing to adopt a lay-in-the-weeds approach. Beltran and agent Scott Boras are set to meet with George Steinbrenner today in Tampa and Astros owner Drayton McLane later in the week as the bidding heats up.

I might not be a doctor at the NYU Hospital For Joint Diseases, but it has occurred to me that perhaps Cameron’s surgery could’ve been performed during the begining of October?