Justin Verlander struggles, plan for WBC participants, and one thing that needs to happen in the final week of camp
Justin Verlander walked six batters in his second to last start of the spring, and both Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar returned to the Mets lineup on Monday
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
The Mets lost to the Nationals 3-2 in West Palm Beach on Monday night (Box)
Justin Verlander struggled with his command in his start, walking six while allowing two runs over 4.2 IP
Drew Smith continued his strong spring, striking out three in a scoreless eighth inning to lower his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.50
Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar returned to the lineup for the Mets - Escobar went 0-for-4 while Lindor went 1-for-3
Buck Showalter plans to have Omar Narváez get the bulk of the catching duties over the final week of camp, Pete Alonso will join the club in North Port, while Jeff McNeil will play in minor league games in Port St. Lucie while the team travels to the west coast of Florida this week
Today’s Game 🦩
The Mets are off today. They resume their Grapefruit League schedule tomorrow against the Astros in Port St. Lucie.
Crossing my fingers and my toes… ✍🏻
This is the point in spring training when I cross all of my fingers and toes.
We are less than a week to the conclusion of spring training, a little more than a week to go before opening day. It’s time for the top of the depth chart to really grease their wheels, dig in and finish camp strong so to go into opening day with as much forward momentum as they can get.
But this is the part of camp I am always fearful of some dumb stuff happening, resulting in an injury which sets back a core player.
Look no further than last year when both Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom were hit by a final week and untimely injury, which unquestionably screwed the Mets up out of the gate.
Years ago, Al Leiter was getting his final tuneup of the spring in a start against, well, who knows. But he took a comebacker which glanced his head and set his season back a little bit as a result.
I believe Daniel Murphy injured his hamstring running the bases during the final week of one of his camps with the Mets.
It happens of course. It’s just one of those things that bugs me about the length of spring training. Of course, MLB has shortened the spring schedules, given the teams more off-days and for the teams in Florida, their bus trips are far shorter than they were in the past thanks to some of the moves teams have made, which in-turn has created less of a chance of players cramping and tightening up while sitting for long hours on the open highways in Florida. I do believe these improvements have curtailed the soft tissue injuries to an extent, believe it or not, although I have no scientific evidence to back that up.
The Mets just need to ensure one thing happens during the final week of camp - stay healthy (or, better put, nobody else can get hurt!)
Anyway, onto baseball…
Justin Verlander started for the Mets last night in West Palm Beach, and he wasn’t pleased with his performance after he allowed six walks in only 4.2 IP. He said he has a lot of work to do and suggested he is still adjusting to the pace with the pitch clock.
It was certainly an uneven start for Verlander but he still only allowed two runs while navigating all of that traffic. Like Max Scherzer, Verlander is one of those unique personalities who is always hungry and never satisfied despite all that he’s accomplished over the years, so there’s no reason not to trust Verlander’s ability to polish up his game and be himself when the bell rings next week.
Next up is the catching situation, which is probably going to become a lot clearer over the next day or two.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said Omar Narváez - who was with Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic over the last couple of weeks - has work to do with the pitching staff and will get the bulk of the catching duties over the final week of of camp.
That means Tomás Nido will likely get reps on the minor league side and also means Francisco Alvarez’s days in major league camp could be numbered. Having said that, Álvarez has been catching a lot in Narvaez’s absence and was pretty impressive at times, showing off both his athleticism and quickness as well as a strong arm. His time is coming for sure, but Mets GM Billy Eppler said earlier this spring the club wants him to be as well-rounded as he can be and not one dimensional, meaning he has work to do at Triple-A before he gets here for good. That really isn’t a bad thing - too often in the past the Mets have rushed prospects to the big leagues, often out of necessity, stunting their growth in the process.
Álvarez is just 21. There’s plenty of time to get this right.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning Drew Smith and his solid performance so far this spring. He struck out three in a scoreless frame against the Nationals last night to lower his spring ERA to 1.50. It’s Smith’s time to shine in the absence of Edwin Díaz this season as the Mets are going to need Smith to be a little less volatile than he was last year. He was unhittable for his first 13 appearances but then pitched to a 4.55 ERA over his final 31, allowing nine home runs in only 31.2 IP during that span. Somewhere in between is precisely what the Mets need from Smith, who is entering his age-29 season and what feels like a make-or-break year for him in his career.
Enjoy the day off and if you’re interested, the WBC final MLB has been dreaming about for six years between Team USA and Team Japan tonight…
Around the League 🚩
Team Japan rallied to come from behind and defeat Team Mexico 6-5, earning them a date with Team USA in tonight’s WBC Final (MLB.com)
Former Met Joely Rodriguez has a grade 2 oblique strain - his return to the Red Sox is not currently known (Boston Globe)
There could be some minor adjustments to the new rules before opening day (Athletic)
The Phillies released former number one overall pick RHP Mark Appel (MLB.com)
The Braves are optioning Vaughn Grissom to Triple-A, opening the door for Orlando Arcia to win the starting shortstop job (MLB.com)