NEW YORK -- The Mets' interest in Carlos Delgado, an interest that was not shared by all members of the club hierarchy after the season, may begin to wane now that the free agent has postponed his return to active baseball. Two members of the Mets' staff have said that Delgado won't resume playing until the middle of next month.

No specific reason was given for the delay, but one of the people aware of the change said on Tuesday night that Delgado probably isn't yet physically ready to play. As recently as Dec. 15, general manager Omar Minaya said that the club planned to monitor Delgado when he began to play in the Puerto Rican winter league in his native country that night.

No mention of an episode or incident that interfered with Delgado's return was made by either staff member.

Minaya said on Monday that Delgado had not resumed playing and probably wouldn't until January. Another person reiterated that on Tuesday and added that the delay -- and the reason for it -- might diminish the Mets' interest in re-signing the 37-year-old veteran of 15-plus seasons.

Delgado, who hasn't played since May 10, underwent surgery on his right hip in May and planned to return during the season, but he strained his oblique muscle in August and finished the season having played in 26 games, fewer than any season since 1993, when he played in just the first two.

The chances of Delgado reclaiming the first-base assignment that became his in 2006 haven't been good since his season was interrupted. And when Daniel Murphy, his successor, hit better in September than he had in the preceding months, the uncertainty surrounding Delgado became mixed with a sense that the club might not need him as much.

Murphy, who had 508 at-bats, led the team with 12 home runs. Delgado, who hit 38 home runs in 2008, connected for four in 94 at-bats in '09.

Delgado re-signing with the Mets -- though any contract with any club likely would include a lower salary and many incentives based on games or plate appearances -- is not an impossibility. Minaya believes the bat that has produced 473 career home runs still has speed and potential. But when Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel speak about Murphy, they seem to imply he will be the first baseman.

If Delgado were to return, he probably wouldn't be asked to play regularly, and it's difficult to see how the Mets could carry a player with so little versatility on a 25-man roster. Moreover, Delgado accepting a sharply reduced role is unlikely.