Feb 28

Cespedes Gives Up Golf To Keep Legs Fresh

Yoenis Cespedes insists there’s no reason to be concerned about his sore right shoulder, saying it’s this way every spring.

Funny, I don’t seem to remember that from last year, but it’s a new year, so let’s give him benefit of doubt.

CESPEDES: Gives up golf. (AP)

CESPEDES: Gives up golf. (AP)

Cespedes did learn from the past and remembers the controversy over his golf game while he nursed a strained hamstring in 2016, and to use the term popularized by GM Sandy Alderson realizes playing golf while injured “isn’t a good optic.’’

Cespedes says golfing reduces emotional stress – not the way I played – but said he’s giving up the game to alleviate any strain on his traditionally fragile legs.

“There are many players who when they are in a slump, they go play golf to try to work on their hitting,’’ Cespedes told reporters. “In my case, I will not do it because I choose to rest my legs so I can be more relaxed and more rested, and also so my legs have more time to heal.’’

Cespedes also drew criticism for his heavy weightlifting regimen featuring 900-pound “bear squats,’’ and has taken up yoga. To his credit, Cespedes’ legs look leaner and not muscle-bound.

So far, his legs are fine but his shoulder is barking. He said two weeks are usually what it takes for his arm to get into shape. He hopes to play Friday.

We shall see.

Feb 27

Is Syndergaard Flaunting His Thordom?

We’re a week into spring training and already the Mets have a long list of nagging injuries. There’s no reason to be immediately concerned because it’s early in camp.

However, something I find more concerning is Noah Syndergaard topping 100 mph. in 11 of 22 pitches. Then he gave a shirtless interview. Flaunting his Thordom?

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves red flag. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves flag. (AP)

Manager Mickey Callawaywhose resume highlights pitching – already cautioned Syndergaard about overthrowing and doing too much too soon.

We already know Syndergaard can throw 100 mph. And, we already know Syndergaard likes to do this his way, evidenced by him bulking up last winter and then tearing his lat muscle trying to blow away Bryce Harper.

“My heart might have been beating a little fast when I saw 100, 101,’’ Callaway told reporters. “But I look more at the delivery and if he’s trying to overthrow. He wasn’t doing any of that.’’

But, Syndergaard has to overthrow just once to re-injure himself.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder if Syndergaard didn’t learn from last season, and like Matt Harvey seems to be caught up in his comic book superhero persona.

I don’t want to get overwhelmed by negative thoughts this early in camp, but Mets’ history tells me Callaway would be better served by keeping a close eye on Syndergaard.

Also, concerning is Jacob deGrom, who is bothered with stiffness in his lower back. DeGrom threw today, but the Mets haven’t scheduled his next start. Callaway said today he’s not sure deGrom will be strong enough to be the Opening Day starter. We’ll know more in a week or so.

You had to figure Yoenis Cespedes’ name would pop up sooner or later on the Mets’ spring training injury list. I didn’t expect it would happen this soon.

Cespedes, who admitted to not throwing over the winter, has a sore right shoulder and is listed day-to-day.

“It gets like this because I spent the whole offseason without throwing a ball,’’ Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I am used to that so there’s no reason to be concerned.’’

It’s not unusual for a player who hasn’t thrown to come down with a sore shoulder early in camp. However, it is unusual for a player not to throw at all in the offseason.

The most serious injury is Dominic Smith’s strained right quad – an injury usually associated with Cespedes – but he’s not expected to even make the Opening Day roster.

Other injuries are Juan Lagares, who is day-to-day with a strained left hamstring, and Jay Bruce has plantar fasciitis.

The only injury that could be alarming is deGrom’s simply because it is a back and he’s their best pitcher.

However, if the Mets proceed cautiously, it’s early enough in camp for them to overcome.


Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.

Feb 22

Mets Must Make Decision On Wheeler

Zack Wheeler gets the ball tomorrow against the Braves in their exhibition opener. He’ll get roughly 30 pitches or two innings.

It’s one of five appearances he’ll get this spring to prove his elbow is sound enough for him to make the Mets’ rotation. There’s also been talk about trying him out of the bullpen, or him staying back.

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the possibility of him working out of the pen. I’m aware of the concern over the up-and-down nature of a reliever being an injury risk, just as the probability of breaking down after pitching on consecutive days.

The biggest chance for injury is if the Mets plan for him to start then switch direction and try him out of the pen. Or, do the opposite in working him in the bullpen during spring training then switching gears during the season.

This is what happened with Jenrry Mejia, who bounced around from the rotation to the pen and back again, only to blow out his arm.

It’s too simplistic to say, “Well, he’s a pitcher, just throw the damn ball.’’

There have been plenty of pitchers to go from the rotation to star in the bullpen. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz all made the transition and starred. Smoltz even went back to the rotation, but the key was it wasn’t done during the season.

I don’t know what the Mets will decide to do with Wheeler, but whatever they do, for this year at least they can’t deviate. Make the decision and stick with it, even if he opens the season in the minors. If they decide to pitch him out of the bullpen, then send him to the minors, he must pitch in relief at Las Vegas.

I’m intrigued by the idea of Wheeler pitching out of the pen. He has a live fastball – his out pitch – and from starting he has a secondary pitch. If he can control his command issues, he could be an effective reliever.

He gets into trouble facing a lineup the third time through when his pitch count rises so maybe being a closer would suit him.

Plus, are you all that convinced Jeurys Familia is a great closer. Both he and AJ Ramos will be free agents in 2019, so it would be beneficial to prepare for them leaving.

Unlike Sandy Alderson, I don’t see the Mets competing this year, so getting some answers would be a good thing.


Feb 21

Mets To Resist Temptation With Conforto

Don’t do it Mets. You’ve been down this road before with Matt Harvey, David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and numerous others. Now you’re facing the dilemma with Michael Conforto.

The initial prognosis was for Conforto to return by early May from surgery off his left shoulder. However, he’s ahead of schedule and been hitting balls off a tee.

CONFORTO: A lot to smile about. (AP)

CONFORTO: Need for caution.  (AP)

“I have been waiting forever to be able to do that and it feels great,’’ Conforto told reporters in Port S. Lucie. “It really makes you understand how much you love it.’’

It’s encouraging news, no doubt, but is it enough for the Mets to tempt fate?

Conforto, who had surgery in September to repair a dislocated shoulder, said he’s content with the timetable initially set by doctors and the Mets. However, there are temptations.

“There’s the May 1 date and that kind of gives me an idea,’’ Conforto said. “As a competitor, it’s tough to look at that date and not want to get out there before that, but that is why we have the great medical staff we have.’’

Conforto wants to break camp with the team, but rushing back – especially in the chilly April evenings when it is hard to get loose – would be the worst thing for him to do.

Manager Mickey Callaway insists he won’t be seduced by positive reports about Conforto’s shoulder, even if it means a slow start.

“Players always tell you they are better than they probably are [physically], so we are going to be aware of that,’’ Callaway said. “We want [Conforto] back, and when he’s there, he is ready for the rest of the season.’’

That’s what he says now. Will he say the same thing in a month?