Baseball is right around the corner in the Big Apple as New York Mets’ pitchers and catchers are reporting down in Port St. Lucie, FL.
As the seeds of lofty hopes and dreams are planted, amNewYork Metro takes a look at what to watch for this spring as the Mets emerge from a turbulent offseason.
The Mets had to scramble to find their manager just before the start of spring training.
Following his role in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, the Mets dismissed Carlos Beltran two months after naming him the manager.
It left the organization three weeks to find a new skipper, though they didn’t have to go far. They promoted quality control coach Luis Rojas, who is entering his 16th season in the organization. He spent extensive time managing several Mets stars in the minors including Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
At 38 years old, he’s the second-youngest manager in the majors and will be tasked in leading the Mets to the next level of contention after an 86-win 2019. That’s a lot of pressure for a first-time MLB manager in a huge market.
Spring training provides the first audition for Rojas taking control of the team, allowing Mets fans to get a glimpse of in-game decision making and how he’ll govern the clubhouse.
Yoenis Cespedes’ health
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has downplayed the prospect of getting a full season out of slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who has been sidelined for the better part of the last two seasons because of injuries.
Cespedes, however, isn’t echoing those sentiments. The 34-year-old said back in December that he’ll hit 52 home runs in 140-plus games. Last week, he shared a video of him working out with the title, “New Beginnings.”
If Cespedes can put together a healthy spring training in which he can successfully patrol the outfield, suddenly his lethal bat becomes another anchor in the middle of the Mets’ lineup.
Who is the closer?
Rojas made it known that Edwin Diaz won’t be grandfathered in as the Mets’ closer in 2020.
The hard-throwing righty had the worst season of his MLB career during his first year in Queens, going from baseball’s best closer to one of its worst. He sported a 5.59 ERA while allowing 15 home runs in just 58 innings pitched.
Van Wagenen did what he could to upgrade the bullpen, bringing in Dellin Betances, who is a wild card considering he pitched just two-thirds of an inning last season because of injuries.
The former Yankee has one of the most potent late-inning arms when he’s healthy, averaging 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.
The next six weeks will determine who gets the ball in the ninth come Opening Day.