Mets set to raise NL flag before home opener Friday vs Phils
NEW YORK (AP) The last recollection the New York Mets have from Citi Field is losing the World Series after squandering a late lead in Game 5.
Time to make some new memories.
Eager to celebrate a scintillating 2015 season with their rejuvenated fans, Curtis Granderson, David Wright and the rest of the Mets face Philadelphia in their home opener Friday afternoon. Former pennant-winning stars Rusty Staub, John Franco and Edgardo Alfonzo will be on hand to hoist the National League championship banner during a pregame ceremony.
''I can't wait,'' catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. ''To be in front of the best fans in the world and to be able to share a great year last year with all of them and to see that flag go up is going to be pretty magical.''
Once all the pomp and festivities are finished, the Mets finally get to play someone other than Kansas City. They're just not sure who's going to pitch.
Jacob deGrom was scheduled to start his second consecutive home opener, a fitting choice after he won 17 games last season - including three on the road in the playoffs. But his wife was due this week with their first baby (a boy), and deGrom planned to head for home in Florida whenever she went into labor.
''Definitely an exciting time,'' he said Thursday at Citi Field. ''Once I take the field, I think my main focus will be on making the pitches at the time, getting that guy out.''
And if his wife calls during the game?
''My plan is to be there whenever he is born, so I will probably be out of the ballgame,'' deGrom said. ''Whenever I get the call, I am going to go ahead and leave.''
If the All-Star right-hander is unavailable to start, manager Terry Collins said he would probably turn to 42-year-old Bartolo Colon.
Matt Harvey lost the season opener Sunday night in Kansas City but Noah Syndergaard and three relievers combined on a 2-0 shutout Tuesday. That gave the Mets a split at Kauffman Stadium before they enjoyed consecutive days off - a rarity during the regular season.
They scheduled a workout Thursday at Citi Field that was mostly moved inside because of rain.
Beforehand, players and staff gathered privately to receive their NL championship rings. Retired outfielder Michael Cuddyer attended, and rehabbing pitchers Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin were brought up from the team's complex in Florida to participate.
''I think it was a good time to reflect on last year. Then you realize we fell a little short of our goal. Makes us want it even more,'' deGrom said.
The rings are 10-karat white gold with 110 round diamonds and 42 round sapphires for a total weight of 2.75 carats, according to a release from Jostens, the manufacturer. The sapphires were designed to replicate the NY logo, and the Citi Field arches are on both sides of each ring. They also feature a silhouette of the New York skyline, overlaid with the Mets script logo that sits upon an image of the Brooklyn Bridge.
''I think all of us will wear that proudly,'' Wright said. ''At the same time, it's time to move on.
''We need to start worrying about this year,'' the captain added. ''Guys are pumped to be here, guys are ready to get the season under way, playing every day.''
While the Mets were in Kansas City, they watched the Royals raise their World Series banner two days before receiving their own glittering rings. New York was practically forced to relive some of the most painful moments from last fall as the reigning champs played highlights on the stadium video boards.
Now, the Mets get a chance to relish their own success in front of a packed house of cheering fans.
''We're just thrilled we created some excitement last summer and our fan base (got) back to where it needs to be,'' Collins said Thursday. ''Tomorrow is going to be a lot of fun to walk out there as defending National League champs, and it's going to be cool.''
Jerad Eickhoff is slated to pitch for the rival Phillies, who dropped their first three games in Cincinnati this week after finishing with the worst record in the majors last year (63-99). Philadelphia is 0-3 for the first time since 2007.
Eickhoff was called up on Aug. 21 and went 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA in eight major league starts last season. Three came against the Mets and the right-hander fared pretty well, going 1-2 with seven shutout innings and 10 strikeouts in a victory Oct. 1.
''I'm looking forward to it. I pitched there last season and did pretty well,'' Eickhoff said.
New York reliever Hansel Robles, who riled up the Phillies by quick-pitching last year, returns from a two-game suspension for throwing near the head of Philadelphia catcher Cameron Rupp in September.
''There's no doubt about it, the Mets have one of the best pitching staffs in major league baseball,'' Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said. ''We have to look at it as a challenge and try to welcome it.''
AP freelancers Denis Gorman in New York, Gary Schatz in Cincinnati and Alan Eskew in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.