By Brad Kallet
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Is it opening day yet?
Every Mets fan — and baseball fan, for that matter — must be thinking the same thing on the heels of yet another unseasonable snowstorm in the dog days of March.
The first regular season game of 2017 is officially around the corner — T-minus 20 days, for those counting. Is it just me, or has this felt like the longest spring training in the history of baseball
Admittedly, I’ve said that every year since I was 8.
As spring training winds down and the club gears up to leave Florida for New York, there’s not much in the way of news. As they say, take what you will from these exhibition games. Sure, they can tell us a lot, but they can also fool us into thinking perception is different than reality.
I’ve watched a fair amount of baseball from Port St. Lucie this past month, however, and have collected some observations that I feel fairly strongly about.
Here are four thoughts from Florida:
1. Mets are far better off with Reyes than they are with Wright
The only real injury blow the Amazins’ have suffered this spring, knock on wood, has been to Wright, unsurprisingly. The captain was shut down from his throwing program about two weeks ago, and it’s unclear when — or if — he’ll return to the team. It’s another disappointing setback for the beloved third baseman, who proclaimed that he would be ready to go for the start of the season.
How much would Wright have helped this team, though? He’s played just 75 regular season games the past two seasons, and hit just .226 in 2016. What’s more concerning than the numbers, though, is the fact that the seven-time All-Star needs several hours to get himself ready for games. On the 34-year-old’s off days, he’s likely unavailable to come in off the bench. So is manager Terry Collins expected to play with 24 guys three times a week?
Reyes, on the other hand, should be able to play daily, and he gives the lineup a much-needed element of speed. This club hardly takes extra bases or steals, and without No. 7 there is no natural leadoff man. Reyes, however, can hit at the top of the order, put pressure on pitchers when he reaches base and score from first on an extra-base hit. He’s not the speed demon that he once was, but he remains a serious threat to steal. The 33-year-old is also a better and more dependable hitter than Wright at this stage of his career, and he impressed at third base in 2016. The four-time All-Star still has a cannon and smooth hands.
2. It’s officially time to worry about Harvey
Coming off the worst season of his career, Harvey arrived at camp confident that he could be the ace that he was in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Maybe it’s rust following last season’s surgery, or maybe he’s just easing his way back in after pitching less than 100 innings in 2016. Whether you’re alarmed by it or not, the fact is Harvey has been hit around this spring. Even though it’s a small sample size, the veteran right-hander has allowed five earned runs on six hits, including two home runs, in 4 2/3 innings.
I’m probably overreacting, but after last season’s disaster I needed to see the 27-year-old come out firing like he did when he first entered into the league.
Let’s hope that Harvey is still figuring things out, and hasn’t become just another middle-of-the-rotation arm. This staff, and this team, desperately needs him to be great.
3. Cespedes is poised for a huge season
I’m not exactly going out on a limb here, but have you seen Cespedes hit this spring? It has been a man against boys.
With contractual security for the first time in his career, the 31-year-old slugger is hitting everything with authority. There was understandable concern that when Cespedes inked his four-year contract he would take his foot off the proverbial gas and coast. Thus far, it has been the exact opposite. Earlier this month, Cespedes told the New York Post that he wants to win the MVP, and he might just do it. The slugger has gone 12-for-27 (.458) with five homers this spring. Look out, National League. Yo is coming for you.
4. Bruce, Conforto and Duda have each had productive camps
Jay Bruce is 5-for-23 with a homer and four RBIs, Michael Conforto is 12-for-35 with two homers and four RBIs, and Lucas Duda is 6-for-19 with two homers and six RBIs so far this spring.
They’ve also been consummate professionals in a time of awkwardness and uncertainty. Bruce dealt with trade rumors all offseason, but all he’s done since arriving in Port St. Lucie is put his head down, get to work, ignore the noise and do what’s asked of him. He’s even gone out of his comfort zone, playing first base for Collins.
Conforto, meanwhile, hasn’t let his expected benching/demotion hurt his play. The former first-round pick has made a case for a starting job, though he likely won’t get one. The 24-year-old has played all three outfield positions this spring, which will only make him more valuable moving forward.
As for Duda, he came into camp as a bit of a wild card after an injury-plagued down year. Despite hearing Bruce and Conforto’s footsteps — not to mention Dominic Smith’s — he’s risen to the occasion and cemented his status as the obvious choice at first.
Brad Kallet is the managing editor of TENNIS.com and a frequent contributor to WFAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet