Yankees and Mets’ stars played “secret” games in recent weeks to stay sharp

New York Yankees, Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

Coronavirus forced MLB to suspend the start of the season, which was scheduled for March 26, indefinitely. Uncertainty then broke into the scene, and players had to figure out ways to keep themselves in shape in case baseball came back eventually, which it did. That’s why a group of stars, including some in the New York Yankees and New York Mets, found creative solutions.

According to Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic, New York Yankees’ outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and New York Mets’ pitchers Robert Gsellman and Michael Wacha took part in “underground” baseball games in recent weeks to stay sharp with the start of the season in mind. Other known players to participate were aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, respectively.

The group of players was led by Eric Cressey, who the Yankees hired this season to supervise their training, strength and conditioning programs. His wife Anna worked alongside him, and they all trained at Cressey’s gyms while eventually playing games.

“If people knew what we were doing, we would have had 10,000 people at Palm Beach Gardens High School to watch us,” Cressey told Ghiroli.

The Mets had several players taking part

The games featured strict social distancing rules that forbade sliding and included the use of up to 56 different baseballs. In one of those games, per SNY.tv, the Mets’ Gsellman started opposite his now-teammate Wacha.

Also in attendance were New York Mets’ hurler Noah Syndergaard, who was present to rehab his surgically-repaired right elbow. He will miss the 2020 season but will come back in 2021 in what will be his final year of arbitration eligibility.

Training camps are opening and all teams, including the Mets and the Yankees, will start hosting “Summer Camp” in preparation for the season that is slated to start on July 23.

New York Mets: Is the Starting Rotation Actually Set?

Each day inches closer to the hope of baseball returning, and the New York Mets will have some crucial decision to make with their roster. Seth Lugo is a versatile weapon in the pitching staff and could sneak his way back into the starting rotation during this shortened season.

The original thought when Noah Syndergaard had to get Tommy John Surgery was Michael Wacha sliding in to take his place. As the season gets shorter and shorter, the idea of Seth Lugo moving into the rotation should have weight.

Reasons to Start Lugo

If Syndergaard were healthy, the urgency would not be as high. The Mets need to replace his production, and there is no guarantee Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, or Wacha could do the same. Lugo has a 4.06 ERA during his career as a starter, compared to 2.52 in the bullpen. His K/9 is three better as a reliever. A move to the rotation moves him from a dominant reliever to a solid starter.

There are concerns about Lugo’s workload as a reliever, which limited his usage early in the season. The extended period on the sidelines has allowed his injured elbow to heal. If the season is 100 games and everything works as planned, Lugo makes no more than 20 starts. His average 5.5 innings per start would equal 110 innings. It would be the most he has thrown in a season, but there are ways to limit the number.

The shortened season could include a roster expansion from 26 to 30. The Mets could implement a six-man rotation that includes Lugo in the mix. In that situation, he could pitch out of the bullpen late in the season as well. It would keep him around the 100 inning mark Lugo reached in 2017 and 2018.

Lugo could also remain in the rotation until the Mets acquire a starter. He spends half the season starting and the rest in the bullpen. It becomes another way for the Mets to get the most out of him.

There are plenty of avenues for the Mets to go with Lugo. Teams throughout baseball do not have weapons like these, and the Mets should make the most out of a shortened season.

New York Mets: Michael Wacha embraced technology to improve his game thanks to his dad

Simeon Woods-Richardson

It seems like Michael Wacha has been around for ages. He was, after all, the MVP of the National League Championship Series back in 2013. But believe it or not, he is still only 28 years old. The New York Mets didn’t care about his 2019 struggles (4.76 ERA, 5.61 FIP) and signed him to a one-year deal this offseason. They believe he can return to form.

And Wacha himself explained to Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News that he has worked to fix his mechanics. He believes they got “out of whack” over the last couple of years.

As he told Thosar, Wacha wasn’t one for using technology to improve his performance, but with the help of his father Tom, he has decided to do it this winter.

He showed up to spring training throwing harder than at any point in the last year. It started by watching and analyzing videos of his mechanics with his dad.

The Mets have faith in him

Tom was the one who pulled up videos of Michael’s 2019 starts with the St. Louis Cardinals. They both looked at critical things such as release point, spin rate, arm slot and other mechanics.

“I’ve always just been like, I’m going to out-compete this guy,” Wacha said earlier in March. “I usually take it on myself and not really understand — OK, that’s a bad pitch because of this, and maybe this will work better because of the spin rate or the ride on this pitch.”

It all started before he signed with the New York Mets. After initially being on the outside looking for a rotation spot given that the team had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz and fellow free agent signing Rick Porcello, he is now a sure thing to be in the top five because of Thor’s injury.

“My dad definitely pulled up quite a bit of the videos,” Wacha said. “He’s got some websites — I don’t even know where he looks it up. He’s got my release points at certain times during the year when I’m not pitching good. He was definitely getting into it this offseason and passing along some information to me. I think it was very helpful for sure.”

Wacha will try to improve on his 4.76 ERA and 1.563 WHIP. Let’s hope there is a season and he has a shot to do it.

New York Mets: The Effect the Delay Has on the Mets Starting Pitching

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Before Coronavirus forced the MLB to put a halt on their season, the New York Mets were flexing their biggest muscle throughout Spring Training. Their starting pitching, headlined by back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, was close to unhittable.

All six starters the Mets could have featured all looked regular-season ready. After the Mets closed their facilities on Tuesday as a COVID-19 measure, it left the players to work out on their own. The season likely will not start until May, which forces the pitchers into unchartered territory. They face a second offseason but still have to keep themselves in shape if the season starts up again.

Starting Pitcher Battles

The biggest battle was between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha. Both hoped to emerge as the fifth starter while the other would be a reliever. Matz had the upper hand when Spring Training ended, but now he has to build up momentum again when the season resumes. It will be interesting to see the different ways the Mets players adjust to a sudden layoff with restrictions on where they can be.

One positive to take away is the extra time Dellin Betances, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and we guess Jed Lowrie have to rehab. All four of their injuries are severe ones to heal. They also were likely to all miss opening day. The extra eight weeks, at least, should give them all ample time to get themselves ready to go when baseball makes its triumphant comeback.

New York Mets: Nimmo, Rosario Heat Up in 3-2 Loss to Astros

The New York Mets took on the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach for their 13th game of the Spring. It was a tightly contested pitchers duel throughout as Michael Wacha took the mound in his third Spring outing.

Things started great for the Mets as Brandon Nimmo led off the game with a triple of Lance McCullers. It was one of his two hits on the day, which moved his average to an even .400. Pete Alonso drove him in with a groundout to immediately give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

Amed Rosario provided an encore in the second inning with his first triple of the Spring, which also led off the inning. He now has hits in back to back games after his hitless start. Eduardo Nunez played the role of Alonso to drive in Rosario in the following at-bat. Those would be the only two runs the Mets mustered all game.

Wacha’s Outing

Michael Wacha spent his outing tiptoeing out of trouble throughout. After retiring the first two in the first inning, he back to back singles before escaping the inning. In the second, Wacha worked around a Carlos Correa double to keep the Astros off the board.

The trouble was too much to escape in the third inning. A George Springer single and stolen base followed by a Josh Reddick walk to set up runners on first and second with no one out. Wacha retired the following two hitters and seemed poised to get out of a third straight jam. Unfortunately, Michael Brantley got to him for an RBI single, which would be all Wacha allowed.

Over three innings, he allowed five hits, one run, a walk, and struck out two batters. It was not a dominant outing by any means, but he battled throughout.

Following Wacha, all minor leaguers took the mound. Yelfy Ramirez took the loss by allowing a walk-off home run to Chas McCormick to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The big concern comes from the 2-3-4 combo of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Wilson Ramos. They all went 0-for-11 with four strikeouts and only produced the Alonso RBI ground out.

Steven Matz takes the mound at Port St. Lucie on Saturday when he faces the Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see how he follows up on the performances from Wacha and Rick Porcello.

deGrom and Wacha Shine in Split Squad Outings

The New York Mets starting pitching has been nothing short of elite through the first ten games of Spring Training. While the bats are still shaking the rust off, the pitching has exceeded expectations so far. In their split-squad games on Sunday, they beat the Nationals 3-1 and lost to the Marlins, 7-2.

Jacob deGrom picked up where he left off in 2019. The back to back Cy Young winner threw three scoreless innings, only allowing one hit and striking out two batters. He a majority of the Nationals everyday players and made it look easy to cruise through the lineup once.

Michael Wacha also pitched well against the Marlins. Over his three scoreless innings of work, he allowed a walk, two hits and struck out one. Wacha still firmly believes he is a starting pitcher, and his two Spring starts show he should be a starter.

Diaz Settles In

If you did not hear about Edwin Diaz’s outing, there were not any problems. He threw a scoreless fourth inning with the only blemish being a Ryan Zimmerman double. Justin Wilson followed by striking out the side in the fifth inning. He has retired all six batters he has faced, and four of them are on strikeouts.

Jeff McNeil continued to stay hot with two hits in the same amount of at-bats. His average is now .500 for the Spring. Michael Conforto homered for the first time and now has hits in three consecutive games after starting 1-for-8. Robinson Cano also added a two-run double to open up the Mets scoring in the first.

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not

Pete Alonso lined a single to center field for his only hit in three at-bats. The concerns were only small for 2019’s home run champ, and the single took the stress off the Polar Bear. Eduardo Nunez has started the Spring hot, his two hits Sunday moved him to 5-for-15. Nunez was a non-roster invite but could easily steal a spot away from Luis Guillorme.

Amed Rosario continued his struggles at the plate. He went hitless in three at-bats and is hitless in all five of his games so far. Only two of the at-bats ended in strikeouts, which is a good sign for the young shortstop. As he settles in more, the hits should follow.

The Mets get a day off on Monday before welcoming in the Marlins to Port St. Lucie. Noah Syndergaard will make his second start of the Spring.

New York Mets: Michael Wacha’s stuff impresses on spring debut

Simeon Woods-Richardson

When the New York Mets signed right-hander Michael Wacha from the free agent pool late last year, they told him that he was going to be a starter. They inked the former Cardinal to an incentive-laden one-year deal with a base salary of roughly $3 million.

However, just hours later, they announced the signing of fellow starter Rick Porcello to a one-year deal worth $10 million. With those two, the team would now have six capable starters.

Several ideas have been thrown around in the last few hours as the Mets get creative to fill the back of their rotation. Jacob deGrom is the unquestioned ace, and he is followed by Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman.

Lefty Steven Matz, Porcello and Wacha are said to be fighting for two spots. Given the resources invested in Porcello, however, it is likely he gets one of the two openings.

For the final one, the New York Post reported that the Mets could be considering several paths. They could alternate Matz and Wacha depending on the matchup, or they could go with Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman as openers followed by Wacha or Matz as the bulk guys. Nothing has been dismissed yet.

The Mets told him he was going to start

But Wacha knows what he wants. “They told me I am a starter, so that is what I am here for,” he said to Mike Puma of the Post.

In his first spring training game on Tuesday, the Mets’ hurler turned two scoreless frames. His fastball sat in the 94-96 mph range, which is fantastic given that he averaged 93.4 with the pitch in 2019.

“The ball felt like it was coming out good,” Wacha said. “It felt like the other pitches were playing off that fastball command and overall I thought it went well.”

The Mets may have a great problem in their hands.

Tebow’s Homer and Davis Injury Headlines New York Mets Loss to Tigers

New York Mets, Andres Gimenez

Tim Tebow playing in New York Mets Spring Training games is already a headline in itself. When Tebow homered off Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, it is a 100 percent guarantee to throw the baseball world for a loop.

Tebow showcased his opposite-field power with a no-doubt home run to left-center field. It was his first during his Spring Training career, and it was the fourth time he reached base in eight Spring plate appearances. Expectations are meager for the 32-year old former quarterback, but we still know he has a flair for the dramatic.

Wacha’s Debut

Michael Wacha made his first Spring start. He is in a battle for the fifth starter spot and was on par with Steven Matz through their respective first starts. Wacha threw two innings, allowing two walks, a hit, and struck out two batters. The outing was not anything special but is a decent way to settle into the beginning of the Spring.

Davis Injury

The other major headline came when third baseman, J.D. Davis, left the game with a left shoulder injury. He jammed the shoulder after diving and spending a moment on the ground. Davis said, “right now it feels fine,” but also said the shoulder is weak and stiff. He will have an MRI Wednesday, but the early news is there is no damage to his rotator cuff or labrum.

This is the first injury scare of the Spring, and the MRI will give a clearer timeline on Davis. Initially, the injury seems minor, and it will likely have more of an effect on his offense over his defense.

Zamora Shines and Gimenez Struggles

Daniel Zamora is a projected minor leaguer to start the season but pitched a scoreless third inning, all against righties, where the only baserunner came from an Andres Gimenez error. Gimenez is known for his slick defense but already has two errors in the Spring.

Wednesday Preview

A couple of big names will face the villainous Houston Astros on Wednesday. Noah Syndergaard makes his first start of the Spring and has already poked at Houston’s cheating scandal during the offseason and early in camp. He is not afraid about throwing up and in, but there should be no shenanigans, especially in his first outing.

Edwin Diaz will make his long-awaited debut in his quest to regain the closer role. Justin Wilson will also throw as the combination of the three pitchers will likely be the crew to start the game.

New York Mets: Starting Pitching Competitions

New York Mets, New York Yankees, Steven Matz

The New York Mets created a “competition” amongst their backend starters when they signed Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. It is safe to say Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman are safe, but things might be different for Steven Matz to go along with Porcello and Wacha. Barring injuries, it seems like the rotation is a lock, but the Mets are going to weigh their options before committing.

Steven Matz

Personally, Steven Matz should have his job secured with the top three of the rotation. Much like the high priced Zach Wheeler, Matz has only put together one lousy season over the entirety of his career. He has also made 30 starts in back to back seasons and plays a vital role as the only left-hander in the rotation. Despite holding down a rotation spot for the majority of his career, Matz still views his spot as one he needs to earn.

His biggest issue was his 6.21 ERA during the first inning and the 6.11 ERA he had in the sixth inning. Once Matz can start strong, he can ride his momentum through the game and pitch deeper. The stronger starts should lower his ERA in the sixth inning because he will have lower pitch counts by that point in the game.

Rick Porcello

Porcello is the veteran of the pitching staff and should be a lock for the fifth starter as well. He struggled in the AL East during 2019, but things should change pitching in the NL for the first time. The expectations are not high for the former Cy Young winner. All he has to do is eat innings, and the more innings he throws, the more successful of a season he has. Porcello has thrown less than 170 innings in a season once during his 11-year career, and the Mets should expect him to land in that area again.

Michael Wacha

The once-prized young pitcher has struggled to regain his All-Star success again. Wacha struggled during the first two months of 2019 with a 6.61 ERA and spent some time in the bullpen. During the rest of the season, he pitched to a 3.65 ERA, but 13 out of his 19 innings were less than five innings. The improvement towards the end of the season is promising, but the Mets best option is to keep him in the bullpen to begin the season.

Opening Day is still a while away, and Spring Training could play a massive role in shaping the rotation. Unless we see a significant breakout in Spring Training, the rotation should lineup as expected.

Who’s The Odd Man Out in the Mets Starting Rotation?

New York Mets, New York Yankees, Steven Matz

For better, or worse, the New York Mets have depth in their starting rotation. They have a back to back Cy Young winner (deGrom), a Norse god (Syndergaard), a homegrown kid (Matz), a separate Cy Young winner funny bear with a proven track record in the postseason (2013 NLCS MVP Michael Wacha), and a Gold Glove-winning WBC champion/MVP (Stroman).

The only problem is… they all expect to be starters. And there are only 5 in the rotation. So who’s the odd man out?

Who’s Likely in the Rotation?

Well, deGrom is coming off of his second consecutive Cy Young season. He’s not the odd man out. When you look at Porcello’s career, he has a good to the exceptional season after a bad season consistently. And last year was a bad season. So he’s in.

Stroman did not fare well transitioning from the AL to the NL last year. His ERA, home run per 9, walks per 9, and WHIP all went up. But, he’s still an elite caliber pitcher who’s in the last year of his contract. The smart move would be to have Stroman as your number 3 starter. Because at the very least, if he’s having a great 2020, but the Mets aren’t, him being in the rotation gives you the opportunity to shop him to a team looking for a second-half rental.

Thor had a good full season, his first since 2016, but he wasn’t great. He seems to fit as a later in the rotation arm, rather than the team’s number 2. Those earned run, and home run totals, coupled with that bloated ERA just isn’t a good look for someone who became the heir apparent to Matt Harvey’s “Dark Knight” moniker.

Then, you have Rick Porcello, who boasted a 5.52 ERA in 2019, a significant increase from the year before. The Mets are hoping for a bounce-back year, but his numbers have never been considered elite.

In a Fight Between Matz and Wacha, the Winner Is…

Matz should be the 5th guy in the rotation. At the end of the day, Wacha has been hurt an awful lot. He hasn’t thrown a complete season since 2017, his WHIP was over 1.5 last year, and his two home runes/four walks a game… it’s not good enough to be a starter.

Maybe the Mets should just go with a 6 man rotation.