Jordan Yamamoto is no stranger to entering spring training with an uncertain role laid before him.
The 24-year-old Hawaiian native — who grew up with stories of Sid Fernandez and Benny Agbayani — was designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins after a difficult 2020 season only to land with the Mets as, on the surface, a depth option for their starting rotation.
But Mets manager Luis Rojas has made it known that a deep, versatile team will have competition throughout its ranks — and that includes the final spots of the starting rotation that has been revamped over the last three months.
“He is competing for a spot in the rotation,” Rojas said. “We always liked him from the other dugout, talking about his stuff and pitch ability.”
“One of those things where it’s not new to me in this lifestyle, in my career, that we’re all fighting for spots here,” Yamamoto said on Sunday afternoon. “I’m taking it, working my butt off… getting after it… showing them I want to be here and that I’m ready to go.”
The Mets’ top-three is all but set for at least the first two months of the 2021 season as ace Jacob deGrom is supported by the newly-acquired Carlos Carrasco — picked up from Cleveland in the Francisco Lindor deal — and the returning Marcus Stroman, who accepted New York’s qualifying offer for another go in Queens.
Stroman has already made an impact on Yamamoto, who sees plenty of similarities in the veteran righty.
“He’s of those guys who is very similar in that we take our athleticism and run with it, our personality and run with it,” Yamamoto said. “I’ve learned a lot in the first couple days that I’ve been around him… Without even realizing it, he’s dropping knowledge on you.”
Until Noah Syndergaard returns from his rehab from Tommy John surgery, the No. 4 and 5 spots are still up for grabs; though the recent signing of Taijuan Walker makes it that much more difficult for Yamamoto to get a spot alongside David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi.
To gain an edge, he’s already gotten to work down in Port St. Lucie with Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner in an attempt to develop a dominating changeup.
“It’s been hard not having a changeup or a really good changeup and he’s been working on making that a plus pitch,” Yamamoto said of Hefner. “The more of an arsenal you have, the more tools in the bag, the better off you’ll be… I don’t have that plus fastball so what can I do to get hitters off balance?”
That’s the exact kind of thing Rojas wants to see from the young right-hander.
“As soon as we got him, we had a good conversation… he was very aware of what he needed to get better at. Not that I knew, he knew, and he voiced that immediately,” Rojas said. “He’s been really good with the communication with our coaches, our strength and conditioning, our medical, everything he needs to do to get better. We’re going to continue watching him learn up close at camp.”