Spring Training is the time for optimism. The Mets are going to win the NL East, Jeff McNeil is going to win the batting title, Jeurys Familia has lost 30 pounds and is in the best shape of his life, Michael Wacha is throwing harder than ever – yada, yada, yada. Optimism is good and my last desire is to discourage that.
But one of the purposes of blogs in general – and this blog in particular – is to write about stories that perhaps the mainstream media is ignoring, for whatever reason. So, while the big boys are basking in optimism in St. Lucie, my mind is wondering about the players with some questions surrounding them. Will they be part of the Opening Day roster or make an impact on the 2020 season or should we be looking elsewhere?
Dellin Betances missed most of 2019 and has yet to appear in a Spring Training game. There have been reports of him itching to go yet recognizing there was still enough time for him to get the game action he would need to be ready for Opening Day. Back at the end of February, Betances indicated that he would need seven or eight Grapefruit League games to get ready for the season. After today, the Mets have 18 Grapefruit League games remaining. Is that enough to get Betances the games he claimed to need?
Additionally, the MetsBlog story two days ago about Betances indicated that his velocity “wasn’t anything close to the high 90s” that we’re used to seeing from him. That was followed by the usual Spring optimism about building strength during camp. A player recovering from missing virtually an entire season shouldn’t be expected to have peak velocity in the first week of March. Still, who replaces Betances on the roster should he need to spend another week or so in Florida at the beginning of the year?
We’ve seen videos of Yoenis Cespedes. There was one of him working out before camp started and since then we’ve seen some of him taking batting practice and lightly shagging fly balls. So, what’s the holdup? Why hasn’t he been in a game yet? How far away is he from his 2018 playing weight? Will the new incentive clause in his contract impact if he starts the year with the club?
J.D. Davis is making progress in his return from a shoulder injury, which happened around 10 days ago. We were told it was nothing serious at the time. The last thing anyone should want is a player rushing back for Grapefruit League games. But it would be nice if there was a phrase we could use to indicate that a player will be out for more than 2-3 days – my definition of nothing serious and what happened with Brandon Nimmo and the cardiac concern – and fewer than the old 21-day DL.
It looks like Davis will be back in game action by the end of the week and that will be good to see. But what will the Mets plan to do if they have a healthy Cespedes and a healthy Davis at the same time? Is the organization concerned about Davis repeating his 2019 numbers? What specifically has he been working on to improve his defense?
Jed Lowrie has been seen in camp with a giant brace on his leg and has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. His replies to questions from the beat writers are, at best, vague. Can he play with that giant brace? He didn’t look awesome in the brief time we saw him last September. Can a player miss essentially an entire season at age 35 and come back at age 36 to be the guy he was at age 33? Is it realistic to have him be on the roster with one of his job descriptions being “backup shortstop” when he hasn’t played the position since three innings in 2016?
Seth Lugo fractured his left pinky toe back on February 17 and manager Luis Rojas said there was no concern at all. Here it is coming up on three weeks later and he’s not been in game action. Lugo has thrown BP and might be close to a return. But given that the Mets were already managing his workload due to elbow concerns – how will they handle arguably their best reliever with this new injury? Are there any concerns about him changing his delivery to make it less painful on the toe? Are they prepared to be without both Betances and Lugo at the beginning of the season?
That’s a lot of questions.
I’m excited that the starting pitchers are all off to good starts, thrilled that McNeil and Nimmo are picking up right where they left off in September and encouraged that Wilson Ramos is working on a new catching style to help with low pitches. Keep those optimistic stories coming. But let’s not lose sight of the things that aren’t so rosy, especially now that we can see Opening Day quickly approaching.