Doug Mientkiewicz is bringing his good glove to the New York Mets. The ball is another story.

The Mets acquired the former Gold Glove first baseman from the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday for minor league first baseman Ian Bladergroen.

New York obtained Mientkiewicz one day after Carlos Delgado accepted the Florida Marlins' $52 million, four-year offer, spurning a similar proposal from New York.

The 30-year-old Mientkiewicz won the 2001 AL Gold Glove with Minnesota and caught the final out of Boston's World Series sweep of St. Louis last October, the first Series title for the Red Sox since 1918. He kept the ball, which the Red Sox want back.

"The ball issue was never a factor in this trade or in this negotiating process. We had a baseball decision to make," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "I know that others in the organization were talking to Doug and either have reached a satisfactory resolution or are very, very close to doing so."

Mets general manager Omar Minaya didn't take a position on the issue.

"When I talk to him, we maybe have to negotiate the ball part, too," Minaya said, jokingly.

With the Red Sox, Mientkiewicz was used in the postseason as a late-inning replacement for Kevin Millar, the extroverted first baseman whom Epstein called "an integral part of our clubhouse chemistry."

"Both guys are everyday, winning first basemen in my mind," Epstein said. "I wish you could combine them. But in the end, I think to be fair to both guys it was the right thing to do to put them in a position where they could get a chance to play every day."

New York thinks Mientkiewicz will help its young infield, which includes third baseman David Wright, shortstop Jose Reyes and second baseman Kaz Matsui.

"It just makes our defense that much better," Minaya said.

Mientkiewicz came up to the major leagues with Minnesota in 1998 and was dealt to the Red Sox last July 31. A career .272 hitter, he slumped to a combined .238 with six homers and 35 RBIs last year for the Twins and Red Sox.

"He really didn't play every day, and that's a possibility why he didn't produce," Minaya said.

Mientkiewicz, who probably will be backed up by Andres Galarraga, agreed last February to a $7 million, two-year contract that calls for a $3.75 million salary this year. The deal includes a $4 million team option for 2006 with a $450,000 buyout.

As part of the trade, the Red Sox agreed to pay the buyout if the Mets decline the option.

With Delgado headed to Florida, Minaya sounded uncertain how hard to push to sign free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez, coming off two knee operations.

"We have talked about him. There's no doubt he's a great hitter," Minaya said. "Will we explore that? We'll probably just explore it."

New York's projected starting outfield has Carlos Beltran in center, flanked by Cliff Floyd in left and Mike Cameron in right.

"I think it is most likely both those guys will be back with us next year," Minaya said. "I think we're pretty close to being there. I feel very comfortable right now with the team the way it is."

VALENZUELA IN PLAYOFFS: Fernando Valenzuela is back in the playoffs — eight years after retiring from the major leagues.

The 44-year-old Valenzuela gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings for Mexicali in a 10-inning 3-2 loss to Mazatlan on Tuesday night.

The victory gave Mazatlan a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series for the Triple-A league championship.

Valenzuela was once one of the game's most popular players, becoming the first pitcher to win both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season — 1981. A native of Mexico, the left-hander created "Fernandomania" with his immediate success and affable personality.

Valenzuela made earlier comebacks in Mexico, but for the past two years he's been a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Dodgers.

Late this season, he joined Mexicali, where he was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 28 innings during the regular season.

MARINERS SIGN CUBAN INFIELDER: Cuban infielder Yuniesky Betancourt agreed Wednesday to a contract with the Mariners, bolstering Seattle's depth at shortstop.

The 22-year-old Betancourt fled Cuba on a raft in July 2003. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound shortstop wound up in Mexico, where he has lived since.

"Yuniesky is an athletic, offensive shortstop," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "We view him as the equivalent of a first- or second-round draft pick."

Earlier this month, veteran shortstop Pokey Reese joined the Mariners on a one-year contract that includes a team option for 2006.

Seattle also has promising 22-year-old Jose Lopez available, but he's expected to return to Triple-A.

INDIANS INK MCDONALD: Outfielder Darnell McDonald agreed Wednesday to a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians and was invited to spring training. McDonald, 26, spent most of last season with Ottawa, Baltimore's Triple-A farm team, and hit .234 with seven homers and 44 RBIs in 107 games.