NEW YORK — By the time Mrs. Met dropped the final bag halfway up the truck ramp, the unofficial start of spring was just a few more feet away. To no surprise, Mr. Met, his chivalry backed by the crowd gathered to send him off, flexed his biceps and loaded the equipment in. Cheers followed. The back door closed and the truck rolled away from Citi Field, its GPS set on Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Such was how the now mostly ritualistic — and, yes, slightly choreographed — drama unfolded Friday in Queens, where fans gathered for the Mets’ annual Spring Training send-off. Theatrical as it was, it warmed hearts and maybe a few fingers on this frigid February day to know that, despite the temperature, baseball is again on the horizon.
“How could you not be excited?” special assistant to the general manager J.P. Ricciardi said before the team’s equipment truck left the lot. “It’s the start of everyone reporting.”
Many of the Mets’ most important pieces will beat the truck to the Tradition Field, including Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, Steven Matz, Travis d’Arnaud and others who are already there working out. They’ll be part of a camp that now numbers 57 players, after the Mets reportedly inked deals with relievers Fernando Salas and Tom Gorzelanny on Friday.
Officially, pitchers and catchers must report by Feb. 13, with the team’s first full workout slated for Feb. 19. The Mets’ Grapefruit League opener is Feb. 24 against the Red Sox, more than five weeks before the regular season opens at Citi Field on April 3 against Atlanta.
The club will use spring predominately to focus on two pertinent roster issues: its surplus of homologous outfield types and the lack of bullpen stability in the event closer Jeurys Familia is disciplined after a domestic violence arrest.
The club’s signing of Salas and Gorzelanny brings some closure to what was an offseason-long search to add depth to a middle-relief corps that could be asked to provide length in Familia’s absence. Officials see No. 26 prospect P.J. Conlan as another reliever who can contribute.
The Mets are also planning to try Jose Reyes and T.J. Rivera in the outfield to counter their heavy left-handed hitting alignment against left-handed pitching, adding more uncertainty to the roles of lefties Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto.
“Spring Training is a funny thing,” Ricciardi said. “It always has a way of working itself out. We’ll go through Spring Training and see how guys play. See how healthy guys are at the beginning and end. The situations will work themselves out.”
The real drama is coming sooner than you think.
Source: Mets News / Mets packed, truck heads to Florida