Ruben Tejada hopes fitness camp beats early Spring Training arrival

When news came out about the fitness camp that many Mets are involved with this offseason, it was unfathomable to me that before now, top prospect Wilmer Flores had never had any training regimen that he participated in once the baseball season was over. Sure, we all get a good laugh out of John Kruk telling a fan, “Lady, I’m not an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.” But when there are tens of millions of dollars on the line, it would be nice if both the player and the organization took things a little more seriously.

Ruben TejadaAlmost as surprising was the fact that Jeff Wilpon was instrumental in putting this very necessary plan in place. It turns out that the younger Wilpon befriended strength and conditioning consultant Mike Barwis which eventually led Barwis to becoming involved with the Mets. Barwis is running the camp that Lucas Duda, Flores, Ruben Tejada and others are attending this winter.

We’re all frustrated with the year Tejada put up in 2013 and clamor for a change in the team’s starting shortstop. But if nothing else, Tejada gets it. Tim Rohan in The New York Times quotes Tejada as saying, “This is my career, my future. That’s why I came here.”

Let’s salute Tejada and the others. Also going to the camp is Juan Lagares and minor leaguers Patrick Biondi, Phillip Evans and Dominic Smith. Biondi and Smith were 2013 draft picks. If anyone reading this isn’t excited about Smith, the team’s top pick, attending this camp – I don’t know what to say to that person. This is great news – that our top pick is willing to go the extra mile to be the best he can be.

The camp is held in Michigan, which helps explain why Biondi, a Michigan native and University of Michigan product, is there. Evans was a player the Mets gave a large signing bonus to back in 2011 to keep him from going to college. He hasn’t had a big year yet in the minors, so it’s encouraging to see him participating in this camp.

It would have been preferable to see two other guys here, too. In a perfect world, Travis d’Arnaud would be here and so would Ike Davis. Most of the injuries to d’Arnaud were not chronic ones. Still, it would be nice if a guy who we’re counting on to play 130 games this year, one who has been injured in three of the past four seasons, would have showed up.

Perhaps Davis thinks he’s too old to be in this camp. Let’s hope he doesn’t think he’s too established as an MLB player to be bothered with such things. You would just think that as a guy who was sent to the minors and then publicly mentioned as a trade candidate, that Davis would have motivation to prove to the club that he had what it took to be great.

It’s hard not to notice that Duda attended and Davis didn’t.

A few years ago, Terry Collins made a big deal about Tejada not showing up early to Spring Training. My reaction was to claim that Tejada was not the bad guy and that Collins was making a mountain out of a molehill. Tejada went out and had a solid year after that. The following year, Spring Training 2013, Tejada showed up early and had a horrible year. Showing up early to Spring Training meant absolutely nothing to the ultimate success or failure for Tejada.

It’s certainly possible that showing up to this fitness camp won’t mean anything, either. But my opinion is that a player who goes to Michigan in the middle of winter to bust his butt at a fitness camp has more of what it takes to succeed than a guy who shows up early to Spring Training in Florida to get face time with the boss.

16 comments for “Ruben Tejada hopes fitness camp beats early Spring Training arrival

  1. Kookie
    February 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    It’s Ike’s job to lose. TC has already said that Ike will get lots of ABs so he’ll be ready when the season starts. All those at ABs against minor leaguers will pad his starts in ST and insure that he gets 200 ABs at the least to prove himself in April and May. Duda? He’s the forgotten man it looks like.

  2. Eraff
    February 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I would agree that all of these guys should be training with intensity and guidance—whether that needs to be with “Jeff’s Guy” is another point entirely. There are over 150 “Mets” at Visible Levels in their System, MILB-MLB….. the 140 or so who did not attend the Michigan Training sessions had better be doing something similar…Most ballplayers do. The guys who were “pressured” are guys with specific needs—one of those “needs” may be reflected in their past “Laxness”.

    BTW—any truth that the Mets made their guys “Fly Dutch” on this?…the MILB guys too?

    • February 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      The Mets split the cost 50-50 with the players.

  3. Jim OMalley
    February 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I thought Duda was involved with this camp too? And has there been any lingering issues with the Lagares leg injury he had before Xmas?

    • Chris F
      February 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Duda went twice in the off season.

      The real disappointing thing is that the Mets don’t have a year round plan for strength and conditioning. It continues to reinforce that the FO doesn’t have a great day to day plan, and perhaps why all the injuries pile up. I’m happy that we sent players there. But in reality, if you are an elite athlete I can’t understand why it would take all this to get to work out in the off season.

      I agree d’Arnaud needed to be there…in fact the whole team should have gone and a team building exercise.

  4. Rev.Al
    February 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    So! now they will all look better, as they make their outs.. Sorry,

  5. Gonzo2814
    February 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Agreed. Good article. Show’s initiative and the attitude that they want to be part of the team

  6. Metsense
    February 8, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Chris Young has been training all winter on his own and twice went for hitting mentoring from Rod Carew. That already shows me he has motivation. If I was making 1M a year I would hire a personal trainer and nutritrionist for the winter.
    If I were the Mets I would have a personal training program for each minor and major leaguers and reimburse them the gym membership if they came to camp the next spring having followed the regimen. I would also offer the expenses paid training camp in Michigan for anyone who wanted to attend. It is a small price to pay to encourage healthy habits, fitness and team comraderie.

    • February 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      Your right Metsense. In the long run its cheaper and more cost efficient. Every time a player goes on the DL and the team has to call up a replacement it costs the team double. Paying the injured player his salary while he’s recovering and the costs involved to bring in his replacement let alone the additional salary.

  7. February 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Maybe Ike is on a fitness program but does not share that information with the media or fans. Having 363 days of sunshine (Phoenix is in the desert) and with ASU within an hour drive anyway from Phoenix Ike has a multitude of opportunities to take advantage of. He doesn’t have to deal with snow or bad weather. Davis being an alumni of ASU Should be taking advantage of the resources available to him. And if he isn’t then he needs to get a better group of advisors to resurrect his career. He should know by now that talent alone doesn’t equal success. Anyone who makes it to the big leagues has that talent. Staying there and excelling requires commitment and hard work. By now that realization should be imbedded in him. If not good-bye Ike.

  8. josiah
    February 9, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Ike’s problem is not physical fitness, it’s mechanics. His focus this offseason should be to continue limiting his head and hand movement before his swing, eliminating his hitch and and improving his balance through his swing amongst other things. All of these things are accomplished by focusing on them and repetition. I wonder how many reps these guys are getting at this camp.

    • February 9, 2014 at 8:29 am

      It may not be his primary problem but to think that he wouldn’t benefit from some type of cross-training is, in my opinion, mistaken.

      If we could wave a wand and change one thing about Ike – it would be pitch recognition. The best mechanics in the world aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit if you’re swinging at breaking balls a foot out of the strike zone and watching fastballs in the heart of the strike zone.

  9. LongTimeFan
    February 9, 2014 at 12:44 am

    The author, Brian Joura, apparently believes that if not Michigan, then this is that player must slacking off and should be chastised for lazy offseason. Somehow it hasn’t occurred to Journa that Michigan isn’t the only state in the Union, nor contains the only hardcore training facility in the U.S. for players to attend.

    • February 9, 2014 at 8:24 am

      If Ike Davis wants to make public his offseason plans, I would welcome reading about them.

  10. Joe Vasile
    February 9, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I remember about 11 years ago reading an article in The Record about how Mo Vaughn had lost 15 pounds and was going into 2003 in the best shape he had been in in years. He hit .190/.323/.329 in a small 27-game sample and ended up retiring due to an injury.

    I’ve just gotten into the habit of taking any piece written about a player’s offseason routine as noise to fill column-inches. Sometimes a player works out a lot then has a great year, sometimes they don’t. I’m not going to get too excited about an MLB player going (or not going) to a strength camp. I’ll get excited only if it translates to on field results. If this camp helps Tejada improve on his career .060 ISO, I’ll be doing backflips. I’m not holding my breath.

    On the other hand, I REALLY like the fact that Phil Evans was at this camp. For what he is expected to be and where he has been in his development curve, it’s nice to see him get serious about getting in better shape to improve his offensive game. He’s been a big disappointment so far, but he’s only 21, so there’s still time. I think he sees the writing on the wall, because another year not advancing past the SALLY is not usually a road that leads to MLB success.

  11. Nebba
    February 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Flores has never had an off season training regimen because he’s never had an off season. He’s played year round. That was Alderson’s complete statement.

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