Thank you, Ben Shipgel of the New York Times, for ruining my Friday morning with the following words, “the early feeling is that Boone will win the job if he can prove that he can still play.”

Unlike in right field, where Xavier Nady holds an advantage over Victor Diaz because the Mets traded Mike Cameron to acquire him, there is no clear-cut favorite at second base. And there is also the possibility that General Manager Omar Minaya could dump Kaz Matsui, picking up most of his $8 million contract, or revisit trade talks for the Devil Rays’ Julio Lugo, whom he has long coveted.

For the moment, the race comes down to Matsui, an often-injured converted shortstop; Bret Boone, a three-time All-Star who lost his passion for the game last season; Jeff Keppinger, a talented hitter with gap power who, after a severe knee injury last season, wants to prove that he can still play; and Anderson Hernandez, a 23-year-old who is probably still a year away.

Boone was one of the American League’s more feared hitters when he played for Seattle from 2001 to 2004 and has captured four Gold Glove awards, but he was released by Seattle and Minnesota last summer because of ineffectiveness.

Boone said that he had not lost any range and that regaining his swing was proving the biggest challenge. Even if Boone does not rediscover his previous form as a hitter, his defense may be enough to boost him into the lead.