PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- He may not have salvaged his career just yet, but Tim Byrdak is certainly talking like a pitcher who expects to return to the big leagues.

Byrdak, who underwent surgery last summer to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder, is targeting a return by July 1. He believes he may even be able to pitch sometime in June, a possibility that he referred to as "icing on the cake."

"It was really emotional when I was diagnosed because it was almost like a death sentence," said Byrdak, who will turn 40 this year. "But the thought process always was, 'Hey, let's get it fixed, and let's see where it goes from here and how it bounces back, and see where it goes.'"

Unlike Johan Santana and Chris Young, who underwent similar surgeries and needed significantly more time to recover, Byrdak believes his rehab will be accelerated due to the nature of his operation. Byrdak's shoulder capsule ripped off the bone with its structure intact, whereas Santana and Young suffered damage to the capsule itself.

Byrdak's plan is to throw off flat ground this week under club supervision, then return home to Illinois to work out in private. If all goes well, he will fly back to Florida at the end of February, remaining here until his rehab is complete.

The left-hander, who led the Majors in appearances at the time of his injury, insisted that short-term overuse was not to blame for his injury.

"You can't pin it on just my workload here," Byrdak said. "That's kind of the life of a lefty reliever. The manager has to play the statistics, and you just never know what part of the game [you're going to be needed]."

Newcomer veteran Marcum interested in mentoring Gee

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New Mets starter Shaun Marcum believes he can serve as a fine mentor to one of the younger pitchers on staff.

No, not top prospects Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler -- they throw too hard for Marcum to help. But Dillon Gee possesses the same type of repertoire as Marcum, who has fashioned a successful career out of control and command.

"I've heard quite a bit about Dillon, how we're similar," Marcum said. "I'd like to sit down and talk with him about how he approaches the hitters, his game plans, stuff like that."

Though Gee also throws a few ticks harder than Marcum, he attacks batters with a similar five-pitch mix. Marcum relies more heavily on a cut fastball, which Gee stopped using as often last season, while Gee throws more straight fastballs and changeups.

Ultimately, their similarities could prompt manager Terry Collins to split those two up in the rotation, despite their unofficial statuses as New York's fourth and fifth starters.

Rotation slot aside, Marcum is simply happy for a fresh start in New York after missing significant time last season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He signed a one-year deal for $4 million with the Mets that could earn him up to another $4 million in incentives.

"The injury stuff's in the past," Marcum said upon his arrival at camp Monday. "I feel great. I'm feeling better than I have in a long time. It's about just going out there and getting ready for whenever I'm slotted in the rotation, and going out there and making all my starts."

Veteran relievers could be in line for big pay from Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Should New York's new veteran relievers perform as the team hopes, the Mets could be on the hook for some significant cash. Both right-hander LaTroy Hawkins and lefty Pedro Feliciano will earn $1 million if they make the Opening Day roster, and up to $300,000 in incentives apiece. They will each earn the full amount if they appear in at least 65 games.

Hawkins can request his release if the Mets have not promoted him to the active roster by March 26.

Right-hander Brandon Lyon, whose base salary of $750,000 is guaranteed on a Major League deal, can also make up to an additional $1.65 million in incentives.