By Zach Gewelb
Pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training marks the official start of the 2018 baseball season. Every team has its storylines, but let’s take a look at some of the more important narratives for the Mets as the team embarks on its 2018 journey.
The most important part of Spring Training for the Mets — and every other club — is to make sure the players stay healthy throughout the pre-season to ensure a complete roster is ready to go for the regular season.
With the Mets, however, that’s easier said than done. The team has had their fair share of injury problems the last few years, and 2017 was no different. The Mets dealt with a plethora of health issues last season, specifically to their pitchers. Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Noah Syndergaard each missed significant time last year, and that can’t happen again if the Metsies are going to compete this season.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland and new manager Mickey Callaway designed a new offseason throwing program for the pitchers to help keep them fresh heading into Spring Training. If that works, and the Mets can keep sluggers Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce healthy, the team should be able to hit the ground running come April.
The Mets have a competition brewing at first base.
Dominic Smith struggled in his rookie season, and the Amazins have brought in veteran Adrian Gonzalez to battle the lefty slugger for at-bats this season. Gonzalez, who last played with the Dodgers, is on the back nine of his career, but brings a wealth of experience to the club and could help Smith grow into a more balanced and patient hitter.
The Mets should give Smith every chance to win the starting job, but having Gonzalez on the roster is a low-risk, high-reward gamble for the team. Best case scenario, he recaptures some of his old magic and provides a solid bat with an adequate glove at first. Worst case scenario, he helps Smith grow into a better player. It’s a win-win scenario.
One of the bigger story lines of the first half of the 2017 season was how long it took for the Mets to give Amed Rosario his MLB debut. He was a consensus top-five prospect in all of baseball and was putting up stellar numbers in Triple-A.
The Mets finally gave in and called Rosario up to Queens Aug. 2, just after the trade deadline. The results were pretty much what you would expect for a 21-year-old getting his first taste of the big leagues: a .248/.271/.665 batting line with four home runs, seven stolen bases and 10 RBI in 46 games.
Rosario was expected to be a big part of the Mets’ future and that’s still the plan. But a strong Spring Training would give Rosario — and the Mets — some much needed confidence heading into the 2018 campaign.
For the first time since 2010, someone other than Terry Collins will come to Port St. Lucie as the manager of the New York Mets. Callaway was hired away from the Cleveland Indians, where he served as the team’s pitching coach under Terry Francona. The move has been universally praised.
Callaway has no managing experience, but is viewed around the industry as being ready for the promotion. As he enters his inaugural Spring Training as a manager, fans and players get their first chance to see how Callaway will run the team.
It may be tough to get a sense as to how he’d manage a regular season game, but we’ll get to see how he handles the team’s bigger personalities like Cespedes, Syndergaard and Harvey. If he can keep them — and everyone else — in line, perhaps the Mets can avoid some of the drama that surrounded the team under Collins.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe