New Mets manager Luis Rojas expects his team to contend
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — New Mets manager Luis Rojas set his standards right away.
“We expect to be a contender,” he said Tuesday during his first spring training news conference. “We know how all the teams are. We’re going to be in a tough division and play some tough teams on our schedule. We have a great roster, great position players with versatility, great starting rotation or pitchers that have a history of Cy Youngs and World Series winners. And our bullpen has a history of saving games and being closers.”
New York went 46-26 in the latter part of the 2019 season, finishing three games back of Milwaukee for the second wild card.
Jacob deGrom won his second straight NL Cy Young Award, Pete Alonso claimed the NL Rookie of the Year after hitting a major league-leading 53 home runs and Jeff McNeil was fourth in the NL batting race with a .318 average.
Manager Mickey Callaway was fired after an 86-76 finish in his second season and replaced by Carlos Beltrán, who was let go for his role as a player in the Houston Astros’ electronic sign stealing in 2017.
Pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Wednesday, and the 38-year-old Rojas said he isn’t worried about any conflict between No. 2 starter Noah Syndergaard and catcher Wilson Ramos. The New York Post reported in September that Syndergaard and his agents lobbied to let the right-hander pitch to backups Tomás Nido or René Rivera.
“They get along so great,” Rojas said. “They’re going to work together. In talking to Wilson about his commitment to the pitching staff and his relationship to the pitching staff, he’s got the homework for himself to keep developing the relationship.”
There will be attention on outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, who hasn’t played since July 20, 2018. While returning from surgery on his heels last season, Céspedes fractured his right ankle in May at his ranch just west of the Mets training complex. Céspedes and the Mets agreed to an amended contract cutting his base salary from $29 million to $6 million. The 34-year-old outfielder would raise his pay to $11 million if he has one active day on the major league roster and to $20 million if he has 650 plate appearances.
“We don’t have a timeline,” Rojas said. He’s running, he’s hitting and I’ve had conversations with him. But we don’t have the timeline yet. The performance staff is working on his progression, and we’re going from there.”