PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Spring training is always a time for optimism, a six-week stretch that allows fans and executives alike to dream big. The page is turned from the previous season, and current weaknesses are viewed as warts instead of potholes.
The Mets began their 2018 campaign Monday with pitchers and catchers reporting, and, at least for the time being, there’s reason to be hopeful.
It all starts with the starting pitching, and unlike the 2017 season, all the starters are currently healthy. That will certainly not be the case for the duration of the season, but spring training allows for wishful thinking that perhaps this year will be different.
New York Mets: An interesting spring training on the horizon
Not that long ago, teams would have dreamed of having a collection of pitchers like the ones the Mets had on their front field Monday morning.
Matt Harvey, who once was the king of New York and started an All-Star Game, long tossed with a bullpen catcher on the outfield grass, and stood near Zack Wheeler, who long tossed with Steven Matz. All three have excelled in the past, but there is now uncertainty since they all ended the 2017 season on the disabled list.
If they can return to form, the Mets will once again field a dynamic rotation since they already possess one of the best duos in baseball in righties Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. It’s not unrealistic to believe the Mets may finally employ their much-hyped yet never realized “five-aces” rotation featuring the aforementioned pitchers.
“Everybody looks healthy. Everybody has their set routine where they get activated and stuff, and looks great,” Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud said after Monday’s brief workout. “Not only do they all look great, but from from what I hear, they all feel great too.”
SPRING TRAINING: Mets righty Zack Wheeler made drastic changes this offseason
The Mets are also hoping that manager Mickey Callaway can help bring out the best in the starting rotation, and can keep them healthy. His predecessor, Terry Collins, had a successful seven-year run but could not keep the starters off the disabled list in 2017.
Callaway has a certain swagger, and he strolled around the field Monday morning with a bat in his hand. His background as a pitching coach allows him to easily converse with pitchers, and he chatted up several starters Monday while making the rounds. Callaway also could often be seen chatting with his new pitching coach, Dave Eiland.
The early reviews of Callaway from the players have been positive, but it’s too early to judge him as a manager as he has yet to even address the entire team. As a first-year manager, Callaway will have to develop his own style and that could take time.
Terry Collins is out and Mickey Callaway is in. Dave Eiland is the new pitching coach, putting his guys on an offseason regimen for the first time. It’s clearly a new era in Queens. Optimism runs high as it does every year at around this time. It’s spring training! We are all 0-0. Anything can happen.
Callaway has been described as easygoing and approachable, and his new players appreciate how he reached out to them in the offseason.
“The vibe is good, man. He was just reaching out, just saying, ‘hey, how’s it going?’ Nothing instructional,” veteran righty reliever AJ Ramos said. “That’s important when you’re able to talk to your manager as a man and not just as a manager. You kind of have the same level. No one is trying to say you need to do this or that. We’re all on the same team, trying to get some wins, and I think that’s the vibe right now.”
A scenario that features the Mets starters staying healthy and Callaway leading a rebound is exactly what fans dream of in spring training, but the Mets are walking a fine line by not guarding against the possibility that it does not come to fruition. The team has not added a starting pitcher yet, and that could prove to be a gamble that backfires.
For as easy as it was to scan the outfield Monday and think of 2015 while watching Harvey, Syndergaard and Matz, it was just as easy to remember last season when it seemed like the starting rotation was starring in its own twisted version of survivor.
There are still quality free agents left due to the slow market, but team sources have said all offseason that adding a starter is not a priority.
All of it will take time, but at least the Mets have that in spades. For the next six weeks, Callaway will work to mesh with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and the team’s other stars. He will delegate duties to his new coaches. He will try to solve whatever crises — and there will be crises — arise.
The Mets are willing to bet on their starting pitchers and Callaway, and hope that their optimism as camp opened will translate into results.
“It’s good to see everybody healthy, everybody has a pep to their step and obviously last year was disappointing year for everybody,” catcher Kevin Plawecki said. “You got to ride the wave in this game sometimes so I think everybody is ready to get after it and kind of hit the ground running. Everybody is ready to go.”
Scenes from Port St. Lucie and elsewhere in Florida as the Mets conduct spring training ahead of the 2018 MLB season.
Jeurys Familia at Mets spring training on Feb. 12, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Later this week, Mickey Callaway will take the podium for his first Spring Training press conference as Mets manager. He will deliver a State of the Mets address, answering queries on the team’s pitching staff and medical practices and his own managerial debut.
Players warm up at Mets spring training on Feb. 12, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Matt Harvey at Mets spring training on Feb. 12, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
AJ Ramos at Mets spring training on Feb. 12, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Manager Mickey Callaway at Mets spring training on Feb. 12, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Steven Matz during a Mets spring training workout in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Feb. 11, 2018.
Zack Wheeler (left) doing stretching exercises during a Mets spring training workout in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Feb. 11, 2018.
Zack Wheeler during a Mets spring training workout in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Feb. 11, 2018.
Noah Syndergaard during a Mets spring training workout in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Feb. 11, 2018.
Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud at spring training in Port St. Lucie, on Feb. 12, 2018.
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