Oh, doctor! Mets hope to start season with healthy spring
NEW YORK (AP) �� A healthy start. That's the main thing the New York Mets are hoping for this spring.
With four-fifths of the projected rotation coming off surgery, the Mets return mostly the same roster from the 2016 team that overcame a rash of critical injuries to claim an NL wild card. So with slugger Yoenis Cespedes re-signed for $110 million to anchor the lineup again, they simply figure better luck - and less time on the disabled list - should put them back in pennant contention.
Hard-throwing ace Noah Syndergaard is the only established starting pitcher on the club who made it through a full season last year.
Matt Harvey had surgery in July for thoracic outlet syndrome. Jacob deGrom underwent a September operation on the ulnar nerve in his right elbow, and left-hander Steven Matz had bone spurs removed from his pitching elbow and a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left shoulder.
Zack Wheeler hasn't made it back yet from Tommy John surgery in March 2015.
All are expected to be ready to throw when camp opens Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Together, they could form one of baseball's most fearsome rotations.
But oh, doctor, that's a long list of ailments to worry about in a young and talented group that's been physically fragile so far. With fingers crossed, the prized starters will be monitored closely, every little twinge a potential red flag.
"Am I confident they're all going to be 100 percent? Well, that would be probably unrealistic to believe, but I do think we're going to be in a much better position with our starting pitching coming out of spring training (this) year than we have been," general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, the unheralded rookies who rescued a depleted rotation down the stretch last year, remain possible replacements or bullpen options.
After advancing to the World Series two years ago, the Mets are looking to reach a third straight postseason for the first time in franchise history. Here are five things to keep an eye on heading into spring training:
REST AND RECOVERY
New York's lineup was ravaged by injuries last season, too. Every experienced regular besides outfielder Curtis Granderson spent time on the DL, in addition to valuable part-timers Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares. Power-hitting first baseman Lucas Duda (back) missed four months, and switch-hitting second baseman Neil Walker is coming off back surgery. He returns after accepting a $17.2 million qualifying offer. The uncertain status of oft-injured captain David Wright (neck surgery) at third base will be another major question mark. Can he still play and produce?
The biggest change this offseason was the departure of popular All-Star pitcher Bartolo Colon, the chunky fan favorite who signed with NL East-rival Atlanta. Colon, who turns 44 in May, led the Mets in wins (15), starts (33) and innings (191 2/3) last season. He won 44 games for them over the past three years and will be missed more than most realize.
Flores, Jose Reyes and T.J. Rivera, among others, give the Mets enviable infield depth. Meanwhile, there's a logjam in the outfield. New York is still looking to trade an outfielder, preferably Jay Bruce by most accounts, to open up playing time for youngster Michael Conforto. In an effort to offer additional versatility, Reyes planned to get some work in the outfield this spring.
All-Star closer Jeurys Familia faces a possible suspension under Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy, so preparing to adapt in the bullpen could be one of manager Terry Collins' chores all spring. MLB has said its investigation is ongoing, and Familia is one of at least 13 Mets set to play in the World Baseball Classic. Setup man Addison Reed, with 106 career saves, could move to the ninth inning in Familia's place.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
While starry-eyed fans might flock to Tim Tebow on the minor league side, the Mets are bringing two premier prospects to major league camp: shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith. Both played at Double-A last season.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.