Alonso’s Grand Slam Propels New York Mets to an 8-4 Victory

New York Mets, Luis Rojas

For the second straight game, the New York Mets came out swinging and had the pitching to back it up. They used three home runs and seven two-out RBIs to defeat the Washington Nationals 8-4.

Brandon Nimmo got the Mets started early with a leadoff home run to give them a quick 1-0 lead against Jackson Rutledge. After three quiet innings, the fifth was loaded with action. Dellin Betances made his Spring debut and became the only reliever to allow runs.

After getting the first two outs of the inning, Betances issued two walks, and an RBI double on a fly ball that left fielder Drew Ferguson misplayed. Ryan Zimmerman capped off the inning with a three-run homer, giving the Nats a 4-1 lead. The only positive of his outing is his velocity in the 92-93 range, which is far better than last year’s spring training.

In the bottom half of the fifth, Pete Alonso‘s grand slam put the Mets back and forth 5-4. It was a classic Alonso homer as he drove it onto the right-center field hill. Alonso did not homer in 13 spring training games in 2020 and already looks more relaxed at the plate. Jake Hager supplied the third homer on the day with a solo shot in the seventh.

Pitching Success

David Peterson was solid in his first start of the spring as he tries to earn a spot in the starting rotation. In two innings, he allowed just one hit, a hit batter and worked out of a second and third jam in the first inning. Peterson finished off his start with a 1-2-3 inning in the second.

After Peterson left the game, the Mets used many relievers who are expected to make the Opening Day roster. Jeurys Familia struggled with his command and needed 31 pitches to get through his scoreless inning. Aaron Loup was the complete opposite, needing just 11 pitches to work through a scoreless fourth inning.

Trevor May, Robert Gsellman, Stephen Tarpley, and Sean Reid-Foley all put up goose eggs in their respective innings. Mets pitchers collectively only recorded two strikeouts on the day. The Mets have a day off on Friday and send Jacob deGrom to the mound on Saturday night against the Houston Astros. Due to MLB’s incompetence, the game will not be televised.

Former Mets target Jackie Bradley Jr. is in agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers

Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who was linked to the New York Mets for much of the winter and a part of the spring, has decided to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2021 season. According to Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe, Milwaukee and the talented defensive outfielder are in agreement on a two-year, $24 million contract.

The Mets pursued marquee center fielder George Springer for much of the season, as he was clearly their top priority. However, once he received a six-year offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mets weren’t willing to go that far and he ended up signing with them.

Then, the Mets turned their attention to Bradley Jr. However, they didn’t like the price and instead pivoted to two lower-tier targets in Albert Almora (non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs) and Kevin Pillar.

The Mets’ center field plan

Both men are known for their limited offensive contributions and their excellent glove, which was a trait that the Mets were clearly looking for as a complement to Brandon Nimmo and his iffy defense in center field.

Nimmo is still considered the Mets’ starter in center field, but the team will probably go with Pillar as a late-inning defensive replacement, or Almora if he is on the roster.

As for the Brewers, they are getting one of the best fielders in the game at a premium position. The second year of the pact is a player option, so Bradley Jr. can re-enter the free agent market if he thinks he could make more money next season under, we hope, normal circumstances.

The 30-year-old former Red Sox hit for a .283/.364/.450 batting line (.814 OPS) with seven home runs and five stolen bases over 55 games for Boston in 2020.

Avisail Garcia will likely be pushed to the bench while Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Bradley man the outfield.

New York Mets Lose Slugfest to St. Louis Cardinals 14-9

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The pitching for the New York Mets started off strong over their first two spring training games but lose all momentum against the St. Louis Cardinals. Seven pitchers combined to allow 14 runs, 11 hits, and 6 runs in the 14-9 loss.

Jerad Eickhoff got the start for the Mets and allowed the Cardinals’ offense to get started early. Eickhoff allowed four runs, with three coming on a home run by John Nogowski. Jacob Barnes followed but was erratic in the one inning he pitched. Barnes walked two and allowed three more runs in the third inning. Marcel Renteria struggled the most out of any Mets pitcher. He allowed four runs, two home runs, including one to former Met Ali Sanchez.

The Mets offense was the polar opposite of their pitching as they had 13 hits and six for extra bases. Kevin Pillar, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, and Drew Ferguson all had multiple-hit games. Brett Baty also supplied an RBI double in the ninth inning.

The Mets are back on SNY on Friday for a 1:10 p.m. start against the Washington Nationals. Kyle Finnegan (0-0, 18.00) faces David Peterson, who is making his first outing of the Spring.

Brandon Nimmo appreciates the faith the Mets have in him to be their center fielder and leadoff hitter

New York Mets, Brandon Nimmo

If the New York Mets’ offseason activity is any indication, then we could assume that the organization wants Brandon Nimmo to compete for the starting center fielder job. He mashed last season, to the tune of a .280/.404/.484 line, a .387 wOBA, and a 148 wRC+. He was 48% better than his peers, yet there are defensive questions surrounding his game.

In 2020, he graded out positively in the corners, but was very bad in center field. He was one of the worst outfielders in MLB per Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA.)

The Mets brought two capable defensive center fielders in Albert Almora Jr. and Kevin Pillar. The former could start the season in the minors, while the latter could potentially accept a part-time role.

Additionally, the Mets pursued center fielders George Springer and Jackie Bradley jr. in free agency.

However, all signs point to Nimmo being the regular center fielder.

“That is a big deal,” Nimmo said to SNY of the Mets’ confidence in him as a two-way player. “They’ve conveyed to me that they have a lot of confidence in me, so that is very good. But I want to do my best with that confidence and go and work as hard as I possibly can. For them to give me these opportunities, I am so grateful. And I’m gonna go work as hard as I possibly can and make the adjustments. But that’s what I need. I need the opportunities. I need to make the adjustments, and so, now is perfect time to do it.”

The Mets’ best option at leadoff hitter

Not only that, but he is firmly entrenched as the Mets’ leadoff hitter, too.

Nimmo is the perfect leadoff batter for any club, as his .404 OBP confirms.

“We have a ton of options so I think that can be flexible throughout the season. But it does give me a lot of confidence,” he said. “My job is to get on base. We have so many good hitters behind me that the more I can get on base… the better for our team and being able to score runs.”

That’s the spot he occupied in Tuesday’s exhibition game, and according to manager Luis Rojas, that will be his place in the lineup when the real action starts.

Nimmo, a left-handed hitting outfielder, struggled against lefties, slashing .196/.317/.333 in 2020. However, he says that spring training is the perfect time to work on adjustments and he is trying to improve.

“I’ve seen what [the] numbers were last year, and I know that there are improvements that need to be made. But I also have a lot of belief in myself that given the opportunities, I will make the adjustments,” Nimmo said. “…I think that’s the goal of this spring training. Going into the season… I’m just going to try to ask for as many opportunities I can possibly get now in order to make adjustments for when it really matters during the regular season.”

Mets: Marcus Stroman talks about his new pitch, a split-change

New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets got their first victory of spring training in their second game, on Tuesday against the Houston Astros. It was a 2-0 win, which means the afternoon’s theme was quality pitching, especially from right-hander Marcus Stroman.

Stroman, who took a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to stay with the Mets one more season, has been working on a new pitch for months, and Tuesday marked the first time he got to test in during a live game.

During the offseason, Stroman learned a new split-change from Mets’ teammate Robert Gsellman, and he threw it six times in the win against the Astros. It helped him achieve one swing-and-miss from Michael Brantley, a very good hitter, and makes for a nice complementary offering to add to his fastballs, sinkers and sliders

“Man, I love it,” Stroman said to MLB.com. “That’s a new pitch for me. I’m still getting comfortable with it, but to see the results today, it’s extremely encouraging.”

The Mets’ righty has a new weapon

According to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, “unlike a traditional changeup, Stroman’s split-change relies on pressure from his ring finger, which he places on the outer edge of the seam. Stroman has been working for months to perfect the pitch, but he couldn’t be sure about its effectiveness until he used it in games. Now that he has, Stroman is more confident than ever in his ability to use it this season.”

Over the last four years,  Stroman used changeups only 5% of the time, but on Tuesday, he went to his new split-change roughly 25% of the time.

“You never know until you throw it against hitters,” Stroman said. “It can feel filthy, it can feel nasty, it can feel like the best pitch ever. But until you actually get out there and throw it in a game, and see how hitters react to it, I feel like you can’t actually consider that pitch a weapon. … After throwing it today, I feel like it’s a weapon.”

Pair of Homers Power New York Mets to 2-0 Victory Against Astros

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The first two spring training games for the New York Mets have resulted in seven-inning, 2-0 finishes. On Tuesday, they were on the winning side for the first time. Mets pitchers had another strong showing, and solo home runs from Jeff McNeil and Albert Almora Jr. powered the offense.

Marcus Stroman got the start over Jordan Yamamoto and was as good as advertised. Stroman retired all six batters he faced and struck out two. His hard sinker resulted in three groundball outs, and he displayed his brand new changeup as well.

Yamamoto worked around a couple of hard-hit balls to deliver two scoreless innings following Stroman. Jerry Blevins, Drew Smith, and Sam McWilliams finished off the shutout. Mets pitchers have allowed just two runs over 14 innings pitched this Spring.

The bats are still quiet, but the dominant pitching held up the two solo homers. McNeil’s homer came against a hanging curveball from Framber Valdez. Over his career, McNeil has less power against left-handed pitching and is always looking to add more power to his game. Almora is another player looking for more power and has a consistent leg kick in his batting stance. In past seasons, he has used a toe tap which led to increased groundball rates every year of his career.

Prospects Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Brett Baty, and Pete Crow-Armstrong all made appearances once the starters exited. For Crow-Armstrong, it was his first game in professional baseball, and he struck out in his only at-bat. On Wednesday, the Mets travel to Jupiter to take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Jerad Eickhoff faces Kwang Hyun Kim at 1:10 p.m. ET.

 

 

Mets’ president Sandy Alderson opens up about pursuit of Trevor Bauer

trevor bauer, New York Yankees

The New York Mets, expected to make big splashed around the free agent market by virtue of having a billionaire new owner, ended up making their biggest acquisitions via trade, bringing All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco in a transaction with the Cleveland Indians.

The Mets did go to the free agent market to bring catcher James McCann, relievers Trevor May and Aaron Loup, infielder Jonathan Villar, outfielders Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora, and starter Taijuan Walker, among others. But they didn’t sign any of the “Big Three” free agents: Trevor Bauer, JT Realmuto, and George Springer.

Instead, the Lindor trade (and, in a lesser scale, the one that netted the Mets starter Joey Lucchesi) helped shape the offseason for them, as the team focused on the mid and low tiers of the market.

According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, the Mets were aggressive in their pursuit of Bauer, to the point that they offered $105 million in comparison to the Dodgers’ $102 million.

The Mets really wanted Bauer

DiComo, after Mets’ president Sandy Alderson’s most recent encounter with the press, wrote that “Bauer opted to sign with the Dodgers for $102 million, which the Mets did not consider a significant defeat. In the weeks leading up to their offer, the Mets weighed the risks and benefits of a Bauer signing — polling women in the organization, among others, given Bauer’s checkered history on social media. When the Mets missed out on Bauer, they pivoted instead to Taijuan Walker, ultimately signing him to a deal worth less than 20 percent of Bauer’s.”

“I’m not here to say, ‘Wow, we dodged a bullet,’” Alderson said. “I’m happy with the way the offseason went generally, and not unhappy about losing out on Bauer or others.”

With Springer, the Mets were willing to go five years, but not six, and with Realmuto, the team preferred for a quick resolution and the catcher didn’t want to sign in November.

Mets: Francisco Lindor already showing his leadership skills

New York Yankees, Francisco Lindor

With the Cleveland Indians, shortstop Francisco Lindor was one of the clubhouse leaders, with everything that implied: trying to get the best out of his teammates, injecting them with the same energy level he has, and pulling together for one common objective. In his first few weeks with the New York Mets, the All-Star infielder hasn’t changed.

According to Mets’ manager Luis Rojas, Lindor came into the clubhouse on Monday morning all amped up about the team’s first spring training game. He loves baseball and wants everyone around him to just enjoy the game.

“[Everyone] was laughing, and somebody said, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’” Lindor said per MLB.com. “Usually it’s early, 7:30 in the morning, Spring Training, not everybody’s hyped up. It was good.”

During the Mets’ 2-0 loss against the Miami Marlins, Lindor went 0-for-2, but even though he couldn’t get anything going in his first game with his new team, his impact has already been felt.

“The abilities, you expect what we’ve seen,” Rojas said. “But now his leadership skills, it’s been more than I expected, because he’s done it so early. … His outgoingness, that’s the thing that’s really impressed me the most. He’s done it in the best way you can imagine.”

His Mets’ teammates already love him

So far, the new Mets’ shortstop has been an outgoing figure un the clubhouse. He has blue hair, has rocked a vintage Mets’ jacket, has showed enormous amounts of energy, and has hyped his teammates in the process.

But there is more to that than just flair. Every day since camp started, he has been getting his work on the field very early, even mentoring JD Davis, who is supposed to play to his right at third base, on how to play good defense.

“You feed off of it right away,” Davis said. “Knowing that caliber of player, that type of player is wanting to get better, and is so focused on the details, it’s like, ‘Why aren’t you doing it?’ It comes with a little bit of a humble pie in that you should be getting extra work in, you should be working on this, you should be working on that.”

New York Mets Shutout in 2-0 Opening Game Loss to the Miami Marlins

As expected, pitching dominated the first spring training game for the New York Mets. All the Miami Marlins needed was a two-run home run from Jesus Aguilar to secure a 2-0, seven-inning victory. The Mets continued their 2020 tradition of leaving runners on base by going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Brandon Nimmo led the way with two hits at the top of the order. J.D. Davis, Kevin Pillar, and Johneshwy Fargas were responsible for the other three Mets hits. Francisco Lindor also made his Mets debut but failed to record a hit in his two at-bats but recorded a nice play ranging up the middle.

The first three innings were very successful for the Mets pitchers against an aggressive Marlins lineup. Harol Gonzalez (10), Sean Reid-Foley (6), and Stephen Tarpley (8) combined for just 24 pitches in their respective innings of work. Ryley Gilliam was the only pitcher who struggled in his inning. Gilliam allowed a Starling Marte triple and the Aguilar home run.

Trevor Hildenberger worked out of a bases-loaded jam with three strikeouts sandwiched between scoreless innings from lefties Thomas Szapucki and Daniel Zamora. On Tuesday, the Mets play their home spring training opener against the Houston Astros. The first pitch is at 1:10 p.m. ET and will be televised on SNY. Framber Valdez will take the mound against Jordan Yamamoto.

New York Mets to open extension talks with Lindor, Conforto, and Syndergaard soon

New York yankees, Francisco Lindor

The New York Mets made perhaps the acquisition of the offseason when they swung a deal with the Cleveland Indians for All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. ‘Cookie’, the latter, is signed affordably for the next few seasons, but Lindor is slated to test free agency after the 2021 season unless, of course, the Mets can sign him to an extension.

The infielder has said he is open to the idea of negotiating an extension, but he is also on the record stating that he is not afraid of testing the open market.

The New York Mets know that the success of this offseason will largely depend on their ability to ink the star to a long-term deal before he hits the market.

Mets president Sandy Alderson said on Monday that he expects extension talks to start with Francisco Lindor “relatively soon.” Since the player doesn’t want talks to take place in-season, the two parties have some time before the real action starts.

The Mets should be prepared to pay dearly

The 27-year old is a proven star and still in his prime, and could potentially ask the Mets for $300 million.

There are other two pending free agents in the Mets’ agenda for extensions: Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. Alderson expects the organization to start negotiations with both relatively soon.

“It would be natural for us to at least talk about it and explore the possibilities and options,” explained Alderson. “I expect that we will do that.”

Conforto was among the Mets’ best players in the 2020 season, with a .322/.412/.515 and nine home runs. Syndergaard had to miss the whole campaign while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed in March.

For the Mets, the priority order for offering extensions would be Lindor, then Conforto, and then Syndergaard, because he would have to prove that he can come back strong from his major procedure.