PORT ST. LUCIE — In two weeks, the Mets will depart the Treasure Coast with their 26-man roster set (or close to it) for the season-opening series in Washington.
Tuesday begins what manager Luis Rojas calls “the ramp up.” The Mets — who had Monday off from both playing and workouts — have 12 Grapefruit League games remaining and will shift focus toward getting enough at-bats and pitches for the regulars.
It’s as good a time as any to step back and consider the pertinent issues facing the team:
Where is the job competition?
Few roster spots were available when players reported to spring training, and that number may have shrunk with Albert Almora Jr.’s impressive defensive play in the outfield.
At the moment the biggest job battle is for the fifth spot in the rotation, with David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto strongest in the mix. All have minor league options remaining.
Yamamoto, whom the Mets acquired in a trade with Marlins, has received the most opportunities among the three in the Grapefruit League (three) and appeared sharp. But Peterson and Lucchesi provide lefty options to a rotation that, if healthy, will include four right-handers.
At least one bullpen job appears open, with Sam McWilliams, Mike Montgomery and Drew Smith among those in the mix. Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup, Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro and Robert Gsellman line up as the top seven. Team officials will have to decide whether to carry eight or nine relievers.
Any health issues?
Seth Lugo isn’t expected to begin throwing until at least early April after undergoing surgery last month to remove a bone spur from his elbow.
But since camp opened, the Mets have been relatively fortunate, losing only one player, Jose Martinez, for a significant stretch. Martinez (who was competing for a job on the major league roster) underwent surgery last week for a torn meniscus in his left knee and will miss the next four months.
Carlos Carrasco has resumed throwing after incurring elbow discomfort last week and will be monitored in the coming days. But any uncertainty about Carrasco for now might be limited to whether he can build up enough to be ready for his initial one or two starts of the regular season.
Noah Syndergaard’s energy in camp appears to be a sign he’s on track for a June return from Tommy John surgery rehab, as the Mets have targeted.
Is there any cause for early concern?
Bullpen depth is probably going to worry team officials into the season. They can hope for a speedy return from Lugo, but can Familia and Betances be trusted? Neither is off to a strong start in camp (in Familia’s case it’s been about the number of runners on base). Betances is still trying to show he’s right physically after two straight seasons sabotaged by injuries.
Who has looked the best this spring?
From the first pitch he threw in the Grapefruit League, Jacob deGrom has appeared ready to start the season. His fastball is humming at 100 mph, with a slider to match in efficiency.
Pete Alonso, after a rocky sophomore season, is making loud contact, and showing better plate discipline.
Almora’s defense in the outfield has been refreshing for a team that has watched too many balls drop in recent seasons. Almora has a minor league option remaining, but is making it hard to overlook him.
What’s different about this camp?
Other than the safety protocols that are keeping players dispersed, Rojas appears and sounds more confident on the job. The tentativeness from his voice that was prevalent last season as a rookie manager answering questions from reporters has disappeared, replaced by more directness and certainty.
It might also help that new owner Steve Cohen has a “day job” and is leaving the front office and Rojas to chart their own course.