Mets Begin Spring Training With Some Optimism, But Also Many Issues
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The questions are endless.
The Mets appear to have a solid rotation even without their best pitcher, but where is the offense going to come from on a consistent basis? What about their bullpen? Will manager Terry Collins survive the season? Did general manager Sandy Alderson do enough in the offseason to help this team avoid another dismal season and perhaps challenge for a playoff berth?
It’s going to be an intriguing season for the Mets, one filled expected maturation of young players and production from some key veteran signings, but where the Amazins end up in the NL East is anyone’s guess.
All that said, here are five things to know about the Mets as they start spring training camp:
MAKING THEIR MOVE: In his first three years with the Mets, GM Alderson took a conservative approach to free agency. He shopped mostly for bargains as the front office focused on restocking the farm system while waiting for bloated contracts to expire. But now, New York is beginning to get back in the game after five straight losing seasons. The Mets spent more than $87 million to bring in Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. Several key prospects are just about ready, and the Mets expect to start winning this year as they point toward big things in 2015 when All-Star ace Matt Harvey returns from reconstructive elbow surgery.
WHO’S ON FIRST?: There was a time when the Mets thought they really had something in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. Both showed power and patience at the plate as promising rookies a few years ago, but neither has been able to sustain that early success and both got demoted to the minors. Now, they’re left to compete for playing time at first base, almost by default after New York was unable to upgrade there. Dreadful starts have hurt Davis the past two years, while Duda struggles to drive in runs. They put up nearly identical numbers in 2013 — which was nothing to get excited about. Josh Satin offers an option from the right side in a strikeout-prone lineup.
YOUNG ARMS: The Mets are banking on a band of touted young pitchers to lead them out of the doldrums, and early results have been encouraging. Harvey and Zack Wheeler didn’t take long to establish themselves as effective major league starters, and the next batch of up-and-comers will be on display at spring training. Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom could be in the mix for the final rotation spot, along with veterans John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka. But all eyes will be on 21-year-old Noah Syndergaard, one of baseball’s premier prospects. Acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Syndergaard went 6-1 with 69 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 11 Double-A starts last year. He could be called up by midseason.
STILL AT SHORT: Light-hitting Ruben Tejada remains the projected starter at shortstop, another shaky position where the Mets failed to upgrade. They found free agents Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew too expensive, so the 24-year-old Tejada gets perhaps his final chance to hold down a job he inherited from Jose Reyes in 2012. Tejada batted .202 with no homers, 10 RBIs and a paltry .519 OPS in 57 games last season. He missed time with a strained quadriceps, spent months in the minors and broke his right leg Sept. 18. He worked on his fitness this winter and is expected to be healthy in camp, but the organization doesn’t seem to have much faith in him anymore. Omar Quintanilla was brought back on a minor league deal as insurance.
CLOSING TIME: It took manager Collins and the Mets too long to get their bullpen straightened out last season, which cost them during a 25-40 start. Collins, given a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2016, can’t let that happen again. The relief corps could include several live, green arms such as Vic Black and Jeurys Familia. Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde are aging options with ninth-inning experience in case closer Bobby Parnell is slow to return from neck surgery. This is an area to keep a close eye on — especially with catcher Travis d’Arnaud beginning his first full season in the majors.
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