Mets’ roster concerns amplified by World Baseball Classic
PORT ST. LUCIE – The biggest question in Mets camp will soon surround the players who are no longer in Mets camp.
Nine players on their 40-man roster — including their entire starting infield — can participate in the World Baseball Classic starting Wednesday.
Any team will worry about its players being thrown into intense, international competition after a few weeks of ramping up, but few teams are better represented than the Mets.
On Saturday, Mets manager Buck Showalter chatted with Team USA manager Mark DeRosa and delivered a message: “Make sure they all come back healthy.”
Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley have left the Mets camp to play for the United States.
Edwin Diaz and Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico) and Eduardo Escobar and Omar Narvaez (Venezuela) also represent their home countries.
Eliser Hernandez is part of Venezuela’s designated pitcher pool.
Several players not on the 40-man roster will also play in the tournament.
While other clubs are making budget cuts to shorten major league camp, the Mets may be looking for additional bodies.
Some health-conscious arrangements have been made – Diaz won’t pitch on consecutive days – but players accustomed to building strength slowly through camp can instead go all out for the glory of their homeland .
Here are more questions the Mets face after their first day off of the Grapefruit League season on Monday, two weeks after their first full workout:
Can this rotation hold?
After a few weeks of camp, a 34-year-old and a 27-year-old developed health problems.
The other top options for the Mets’ rotation — ages 40, 38, 35, 30 and 27 — are still standing.
A rotation of this old one would always be a concern.
Jose Quintana suffered a minor stress fracture to his left fifth rib, the Mets said Monday, a day after he reported shortness of breath.
The team has not yet released a timetable for his return.
David Peterson, an all-time low, took a comeback off his left foot on Saturday and appears to have avoided the worst, suffering a bruise and listed as daily.
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco enter the season with a combined 45 years of major league experience.
Kodai Senga, who debuted in the exhibition season on Sunday, is technically a rookie, but has plenty of innings under his belt.
The Mets will need to test their depth of rotation – and probably early.
At the edge of the rotation are Peterson and Tylor Megill.
Among the next group are Hernandez and Joey Lucchesi, who is building up in his first season since Tommy John’s surgery.
Can a child crack the frame?
Probably not, but they’re arguing their case.
Brett Baty has the most realistic shot, his loud bat threatening Escobar’s reign at third base.
But the 23-year-old has also shown a shaky glove, with Showalter repeatedly stating that the Mets will value defense heavily.
Baty, who has opened 8-for-17 with a home run in the Grapefruit League, will also likely have to beat Triple-A pitching for a call-up.
Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos have similar blistering springs and present different defensive concerns.
Mauricio, a shortstop, will have to learn another position (maybe second or third base and maybe an outfield spot) in the minors.
Vientos, a corner infielder, must prove his glove is not a liability.
Vientos reached the Majors late last season as a right hitter and that spot could open up again.
Darin Ruf, who struggled with the Mets last season, has yet to debut due to a wrist problem.
Who will win the last bullpen spots?
Diaz, Ottavino, Raley, David Robertson and Drew Smith have jobs locked up.
Stephen Nogosek (who is out of options) and Zach Greene (a Rule 5 pick who would be offered back to the Yankees if he doesn’t make the team) are front-runners for the Opening Day bullpen because they would likely lose otherwise.
That leaves one spot open for a group that includes Jeff Brigham, Sam Coonrod, John Curtiss, Bryce Montes de Oca and Stephen Ridings.
All of them have flashed good things, and all can be chosen for the minors.
It is also possible that the Mets carry Hernandez or Lucchesi as a tall man.
Finding Nimmo (& Marte).
Two of the Mets’ three outfielders have yet to debut in the exhibition season, though the concern seems minor for both.
Brandon Nimmo takes it easy in what can be a long spring training session.
Starling Marte is expected to face the Grapefruit League for the first time this week after undergoing off-season surgery on both groins.