Free agent 3B Norihiro Nakamura met yesterday with Mets GM Steve Phillips, who is seeking a replacement for Edgardo Alfonzo.

"We had a good meeting. We got to know each other," Phillips said after the session at Shea Stadium. "I told him we'd be back to him in a couple of days. The player is going back to Japan tomorrow. He's got to assess what he wants to do. He has decisions to make."

Nakamura hit .294 with 42 homers and 115 RBI last season for Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Pacific League. In Japan, he has been courted by the Buffaloes, Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers.

Nakamura visited Los Angeles and New York during his trip to the United States. He brought along Masami Shigeta, his Japanese agent.

Greg McAleenan, Nakamura's American agent, also was at yesterday's meeting, as was Mets senior assistant general manager Jim Duquette.

"It was a good exchange of information," McAleenan said. "We were quite pleased with the homework the Mets' organization had done on him."

* DEAL: The Devil Rays reached agreement with the Yokohama Bay Stars to sell 1B Steve Cox to the Japanese club. The Devil Rays are first required to ask release waivers on Cox, who had expressed interest in playing in Japan.

Cox, 28, batted .254 with 16 home runs and 72 RBI in 148 games this season for the Devil Rays. Cox batted .262 in four seasons with the team.

-- From News Services