When spring training was suspended in March, the Mets were still trying to configure their rotation and get multiple rehabbing players ready for the season.
More than three months later, as they prepare to resume workouts next week – this time at Citi Field with MCU Park in Brooklyn as a potential site overflow – the issues have shifted somewhat.
Most notably, Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his 2020 season, and Michael Conforto’s oblique strain that threatened to keep him sidelined for the early weeks of the season has healed.
Barring another coronavirus setback, the 60-game season will begin in about a month. Here are five storylines to keep in mind heading into Spring Training 2 – or more accurately, Summer Training:
1. Steven Matz and Michael Wacha were hovering around one rotation spot in the first spring training, with it possible the Mets would employ a job share of sorts, alternating the lefty and righty. With Syndergaard’s spot up for grabs, there seems to be a chair for everybody – with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, Matz and Wacha in the rotation.
Seth Lugo may be considered, but the Mets’ preference is to keep the top reliever from the past two seasons in the bullpen. Wacha has a history of shoulder issues, but may benefit from a season in which he is asked to start just 10-12 games. If there is an injury rotation, the Mets may have to look towards the untested David Peterson or Franklyn Kilome, with Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt as other options.
2. Every every reason to believe at this point the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on awards for this abbreviated season. DeGrom has won the past two National League Cy Young awards, but his chances of becoming just the third pitcher to win as many as three straight, figure to be affected. After all, mere mortals can get hot over a stretch of 10 starts and post terrific numbers.
Realistic the truly gifted who endure the grind of a season and emerge from the pack. Would anyone be surprised if there is a reliever that makes 30 appearances this season and allows only one or two runs and wins the award?
3. Neither Yoenis Cespedes nor Jed Lowrie had appeared in an exhibition game when spring training was suspended, but Cespedes was close to testing his legs on the bases. Lowrie was still wearing an extensive leg brace and probably further away from playing than Cespedes.
The Mets have bigger plans for Cespedes if deemed healthy. With the DH in play for at least this season, Cespedes could provide an extra bat to the lineup without putting too much stress on his surgically repaired heels. Lowrie provides a backup at second and third base. He would be a nice extra piece if he could play.
4. Edwin Diaz was off to a shaky start in the Grapefruit League after a disastrous first season with the Mets, but Jeurys Familia was showing signs he could be in for a rebound year, 30 pounds lighter, after flopping in 2019.
The biggest question mark in the Mets’ bullpen was Dellin Betances, attempting a comeback after appearing in only one game last season for the Yankees. The veteran right-hander had his debut game delayed and was attempting to increase his velocity from the 90-91 mph range when the shutdown was imposed.
5. Luis Rojas, the Mets’ rookie manager, has been awaiting his first real game. In a 60-game season, mistakes will be magnified. Mickey Callaway had two brutal first halves with the Mets, but the team, in both seasons of his regime, played markedly better in the second half. Rojas has got 37 percent of the schedule to prove himself in his first season.