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Mets valuing flexibility with optionable relievers

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Playing last summer for the Dodgers' Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate, Jacob Rhame saw firsthand one of baseball's newer pitching trends play out before him. As Rhame logged his time at Triple-A, he watched the Dodgers option successful pitchers such as Josh Fields and Ross Stripling to the Minors to make room for rested arms at the Major League level.

"You can be throwing your butt off, throwing well, but if you throw three days in a row they need a fresh arm," Rhame said. "It's just part of the game. You've got to know your role."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Playing last summer for the Dodgers' Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate, Jacob Rhame saw firsthand one of baseball's newer pitching trends play out before him. As Rhame logged his time at Triple-A, he watched the Dodgers option successful pitchers such as Josh Fields and Ross Stripling to the Minors to make room for rested arms at the Major League level.

"You can be throwing your butt off, throwing well, but if you throw three days in a row they need a fresh arm," Rhame said. "It's just part of the game. You've got to know your role."

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As that trend grew popular in Oklahoma City, Scranton, Pa., and various other Minor League outposts around the country, the Mets took notice. Out of contention by early summer, New York began scouting other teams' relievers, looking for pitchers such as Rhame who featured elite strikeout rates, opponent exit velocities and spin rates.

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They used Trackman data at Port St. Lucie's First Data Field to identify Drew Smith, whom they eventually acquired for Lucas Duda. They saw wipeout potential in the 101-mph fastball of Gerson Bautista, who arrived with Jamie Callahan and Stephen Nogosek in a deal for Addison Reed. They imported live arms in Rhame (for Curtis Granderson) and Ryder Ryan (for Jay Bruce), each of them with histories of striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings in the Minors.

Four of the six now rank among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Mets prospects. Rhame, Callahan, Bautista and Smith are all in big league camp.

Video: WSH@NYM: Callahan K's Stevenson to escape a jam

"Everyone here has got an awesome arm," Rhame said. "We've all got talent. It's a big competition, really."

Almost as important, all of the relievers the Mets acquired have unused Minor League options, giving the Mets the exact sort of flexibility they crave.

It may seem like a small thing, but with relief pitchers contributing a higher percentage of innings than ever before in baseball history, it's critical. No longer can teams survive with seven-man bullpens. To the contrary, many clubs have already transitioned to eight-man 'pens, like the Mets did for much of last season. But even that is often no longer enough.

Beyond the extra arm, teams value optionable relievers who can shuttle back and forth from Triple-A at any time, with no penalty -- no risk of losing them to a waiver claim -- beyond a 10-day cooling off period following a demotion. That allows clubs to bring in fresh arms after using their bullpens heavily in an extra-inning game or on a night in which the starter did not go deep.

Logistically, it's a strategy that's easier for teams such as the Yankees that play within driving distance of their Triple-A club. But it is one the Mets nonetheless plan on embracing for a year with their Las Vegas affiliate, before shifting to Syracuse, N.Y., in 2019.

"To have a couple of optionable relievers, or one spot that you can do that with, is huge," manager Mickey Callaway said. "You have a 15-inning game, they're gonna go down. That's just how it is. We're going to bring them all in, those guys with options, and explain that to them, and they have to be able to handle that information, go down, get their work in in Triple-A so they can come back and help us.

"Those guys are going to matter in the long run. They will probably end up pitching in some pretty important games at some point. So they're very crucial for what we're trying to do."

The Mets will begin this season with a bullpen featuring at least three pitchers with accessible options, giving them such flexibility in spades. And while Rhame, Callahan, Smith and Bautista are unlikely to call Flushing home on Opening Day, it may not make much of a difference over 162 games.

"Obviously everybody wants to have the goal of making the team out of Spring Training," Smith said. "Everybody in here wants that. But if not, you still have a chance to be here. It's a long season."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, Stephen Nogosek, Jacob Rhame, Ryder Ryan, Drew Smith

Wheeler to start spring opener vs. Braves

Righty looking to make Mets' rotation; Thor throws batting practice; Mets to wear memorial caps Friday
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps no one's status in Mets camp is more tenuous than that of Zack Wheeler, who could end up in the rotation, the bullpen or off the roster altogether. With that as his backdrop, Wheeler will kick off the Mets' Grapefruit League schedule when he starts Friday against the Braves at First Data Field.

Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald and a host of roster hopefuls will appear in the game, the Mets announced Wednesday. Seth Lugo will then start the team's second Grapefruit League contest on Saturday, followed by Robert Gsellman and each of the clubs' top four relievers on Sunday. Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman are all fighting for jobs in the Opening Day rotation.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps no one's status in Mets camp is more tenuous than that of Zack Wheeler, who could end up in the rotation, the bullpen or off the roster altogether. With that as his backdrop, Wheeler will kick off the Mets' Grapefruit League schedule when he starts Friday against the Braves at First Data Field.

Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald and a host of roster hopefuls will appear in the game, the Mets announced Wednesday. Seth Lugo will then start the team's second Grapefruit League contest on Saturday, followed by Robert Gsellman and each of the clubs' top four relievers on Sunday. Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman are all fighting for jobs in the Opening Day rotation.

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For Wheeler, the outing will be the first of several auditions to prove he belongs in New York's starting five. The addition of Jason Vargas created a crowded rotation for the Mets, who will consider moving Wheeler to the bullpen if Matt Harvey and Steven Matz both win starting spots. For now, though, the Mets want to see how Wheeler performs early in games.

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"He's definitely a starting pitcher," manager Mickey Callaway said. "For us to be the best possible team we can be, we have to have him be a starter. He's going to go out there and do everything he can to win this competition that we have going on."

Callaway also said that outfielder Juan Lagares is likely to bat first on Friday. The Mets plan to use Lagares frequently as their leadoff hitter this spring, in an attempt to get him as many reps as possible with his revamped swing.

Reining it in
As usual, Noah Syndergaard drew a crowd for his live batting practice session Wednesday, eliciting oohs from the crowd when he tied up outfielder Zach Borenstein with a pitch, causing Borenstein to lose his grip on the bat.

It made for good entertainment, but the Mets are wary of Syndergaard doing too much, too soon on the heels of a season that saw him throw just 30 1/3 innings due to injury. The Mets hope Syndergaard will be able to dial back his signature fastball until he truly needs the triple-digit heat.

Video: Syndergaard talks about his offseason workouts

"I talked to him before I ever saw him throw because I knew about that already," Callaway said. "He's a big boy with a good arm. And when you get a guy like that, sometimes it is hard to reel it back. His 80 percent looks like a lot of guys' 100 percent. We just want him to make sure that he's not overdoing it at any time."

In memoriam
The Mets will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School caps during their Grapefruit League opener on Friday, in support of those affected by the Parkland school shooting last week.

The Mets plan to wear the caps during both batting practice and the game, then sign them and auction them off to raise funds to benefit the Broward Education Foundation's official victims fund. Two players in Mets camp, Anthony Swarzak and Luis Guillorme, attended high school in Broward County.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Zack Wheeler

Waiting game: Mets won't rush eager Conforto

Club monitoring All-Star until he is fully healed from left shoulder surgery
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The box is circled on Michael Conforto's calendar: May 1, the date Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has targeted for his return from shoulder surgery. The competitor in Conforto wants to come back sooner. The realist knows it could be later.

"The timetable is fluid," Conforto said.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The box is circled on Michael Conforto's calendar: May 1, the date Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has targeted for his return from shoulder surgery. The competitor in Conforto wants to come back sooner. The realist knows it could be later.

"The timetable is fluid," Conforto said.

Whenever Conforto returns, he wants to make sure he is at little risk of reinjuring the shoulder that spoiled his 2017 season. An All-Star despite sitting on the bench for much of April, Conforto spent much of the season as one of the Mets' few bright spots. In 109 games, he hit .279 with 27 homers and a .939 OPS. His adjusted OPS, which accounts for external factors such as ballparks, would have ranked fifth in the National League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

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But Conforto dislocated his left shoulder swinging a bat Aug. 24 at Citi Field; subsequent testing revealed a capsule tear that necessitated surgery, ending his season. Team physician Dr. David Altchek told Conforto there is a 99-percent chance he will not dislocate his shoulder again, compared to much lesser odds had he not undergone surgery.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In other words, once Conforto returns to full capacity, there should be no reason why he cannot resume his elite career arc. He just needs to heal first.

"I want to make sure that when he's back, he's back," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We want him to just go through his rehab routine, make sure we communicate with him along the way how he's feeling. Players always tell you they feel better than they probably are, so we're going to be aware of that. But we want him back and when he's ready, he's there for the rest of the season."

• Gimenez leads new Mets Top 30 Prospects list

For most of the winter, Conforto logged two hours of physical therapy daily, hoping to accelerate his timetable as much as possible. All the while, he knew that an Opening Day return was likely out of the question. It was not until this weekend that Conforto began swinging off a tee, the next step in the process of molding his shoulder back into baseball shape.

"I was willing to do whatever I could," Conforto said. "I want to be out on the field with my teammates, give us the best chance to win and be the player that I am. It's all worth it. It makes it worth it once I get in the cage like I did today and hit off the tee a little bit."

Video: Ramos asks Conforto hard questions as media member

With Conforto sidelined, the Mets will give center-field reps to Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, each of whom could also replace Conforto as the Mets' leadoff hitter. Because the Mets signed Jay Bruce to a three-year deal this winter, Conforto will be the team's starting center fielder for the foreseeable future -- something he believes he can handle with aplomb, despite knowing he's "not Billy Hamilton out there."

Quite simply, the Mets don't need Conforto to be Hamilton, Willie Mays or anyone else. They just need him to be healthy.

And they're willing to wait for that.

"My energy is channeled into my rehab," Conforto said. "Every rep gets me a little bit closer to getting back out on the field. As long as I keep that fire, I think that's what's going to get me out there and be successful and be healthy."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Michael Conforto

All clubs to don Douglas caps for ST openers

MLB.com @_dadler

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

Video: Teams to wear Stoneman Douglas hats for ST openers

"It's a tragedy. It was a tragedy that hit the state of Florida, where we have two teams, but obviously has very specific baseball connections," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Really a very strong sentiment among the clubs that this was the appropriate thing to do immediately."

MLB teams will wear the caps pregame on Friday and will also be allowed to wear them during their games. Since they're off on Friday, the Royals and Rangers will don the hats on Saturday.

The Commissioner approved the use of the caps during all games on Friday, the Spring Training openers for most of the clubs.

The effort started with a few Grapefruit League teams, which wanted to wear the caps pregame, and it quickly spread across camps in Florida and Arizona. Soon all 30 teams had decided to join in the support and fundraising effort for the school community.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo attended Stoneman Douglas, and spoke at a prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park the day after the shooting. 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive.

"The caps made for the fundraising effort will be provided to all players, coaches and umpires."

The Stoneman Douglas High School caps are reminiscent of how the Mets wore NYPD and FDNY caps following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The Mets donned the caps to honor the first responders in their first game after the attacks, in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, and again in their return to New York four days later. In that memorable game at Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning to lead the Mets to an emotional win over the Braves.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Gimenez leads new Mets Top 30 Prospects list

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Things didn't exactly go as planned for the Mets in 2017, a season they thought they would compete in that went south and ended with a fourth-place finish in the National League East. Injuries to some homegrown pitchers were a key culprit and for the first time in three years, there were no Mets mentioned in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting (Jacob deGrom won the award in 2014, Noah Syndergaard finished fourth in '15 and Steven Matz got a vote in '16).

Mets' Top 30 Prospects list

Things didn't exactly go as planned for the Mets in 2017, a season they thought they would compete in that went south and ended with a fourth-place finish in the National League East. Injuries to some homegrown pitchers were a key culprit and for the first time in three years, there were no Mets mentioned in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting (Jacob deGrom won the award in 2014, Noah Syndergaard finished fourth in '15 and Steven Matz got a vote in '16).

Mets' Top 30 Prospects list

While there were no ROY candidates, the farm system did produce some big leaguers definitely worth watching. Shortstop Amed Rosario, who was ranked as one of the top prospects in the game a year ago, graduated off of rankings and showed glimpses of the star he has the potential to become. Dominic Smith, a fellow Top 100 prospect a year ago, struggled a bit in his call to New York, but did hit a combined 25 home runs and drove in over 100 runs between Triple-A and the big leagues. And outfielder Brandon Nimmo showed his on-base skills will play at the highest level.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

There aren't those kinds of impact players brimming at the upper levels of the system waiting to break through in 2018, though there is some rotation depth that could contribute. Chris Flexen was pressed into service last year, and could be more up to the challenge now, while arms like Marcos Molina and Corey Oswalt could fit into the back of a big league rotation soon.

The Mets also brought in some big arms that should help out the bullpen in 2018. Jamie Callahan and Jacob Rhame got their feet wet after coming over in deals and both have close to top-of-the-scale fastballs at their disposal.

And while there may not be a Rosario or Smith lurking, role players like infielder Luis Guillorme and catcher Tomas Nido could spend considerable time in Citi Field this season. Longer-term, the Mets do have some possible impact talent coming, largely via the international market. Top prospect Andres Gimenez is a future Top 100 candidate as he matures, even if he has to slide over to second in deference to Rosario. The Mets were aggressive in 2017, signing both shortstop Ronny Mauricio and outfielder Adrian Hernandez to seven-figure bonuses. It might take a while, but they could bring another round of Mets farm system dominance to fruition.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Chris Flexen, RHP (2017: 29 | 2018: 9)
Fall: Gavin Cecchini, 2B/SS (2017: 7 | 2018: 18)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 60 - Andres Gimenez
Power: 55 - Peter Alonso (Mark Vientos, David Thompson)
Run: 60 - Adrian Hernandez (Desmond Lindsay)
Arm: 65 - Ali Sanchez
Defense: 70 - Luis Guillorme
Fastball: 70 - Gerson Bautista (Jacob Rhame)
Curveball: 60 - Thomas Szapucki
Slider: 55 - David Peterson (Justin Dunn, Marcos Molina, Gerson Bautista)
Changeup: 60 - P.J. Conlon
Control: 60 - Conlon (Justin Dunn, Jordan Humphreys)

How they were built
Draft: 17
International: 7
Trade: 4
Free agent: 1
Rule 5: 1

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 10
2019: 7
2020: 7
2021: 4
2022: 2

Breakdown by position
C: 3
1B: 1
2B: 2
3B: 2
SS: 4
OF: 5
RHP: 9
LHP: 4

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

New York Mets

Ramos plays reporter, interviews Conforto

The media scrum. It's the time for various reporters, TV crews and media members to ask their most burning questions of baseball players, either before or after a game. Normally a serious affair during the regular season, things can get a bit more relaxed during Spring Training -- which they definitely did on Tuesday at the Mets' Spring Training facility. 

As the gathered media conducted their chat with outfielder Michael Conforto, who's working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, his teammate AJ Ramos picked up a microphone (and a bag of sunflower seeds) and put on his best media impersonations by asking Conforto some really tough questions.

deGrom leaves camp for birth of second child

Prospect Bautista throwing heat; Tebow takes BP
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After logging his daily work at the Mets' complex Tuesday, Jacob deGrom climbed into his car for a trip to be with his wife, Stacey, for the birth of the couple's second child. deGrom planned to stay away from Mets camp until Saturday.

For most of camp, deGrom has stayed close to his cellphone, waiting for a call. The baby's original due date was Feb. 12, keeping deGrom on pins and needles for more than a week.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After logging his daily work at the Mets' complex Tuesday, Jacob deGrom climbed into his car for a trip to be with his wife, Stacey, for the birth of the couple's second child. deGrom planned to stay away from Mets camp until Saturday.

For most of camp, deGrom has stayed close to his cellphone, waiting for a call. The baby's original due date was Feb. 12, keeping deGrom on pins and needles for more than a week.

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The absence will prevent deGrom from pitching in New York's first two Grapefruit League contests, though it's possible the Mets will keep him, Noah Syndergaard and other top starters out of early spring games anyway, as they have in recent years. Manager Mickey Callaway, a former pitching coach said he is deferring to current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland on all such matters.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"This is the easiest spring I've ever had because I don't have to map out the pitching," Callaway said, laughing. "I'm sitting there saying, 'What do I do?'"

Fireballer
Among those making waves early in Mets camp is Gerson Bautista, one of three relievers the team acquired from Boston for Addison Reed last July. One of the hardest throwers in a clubhouse that also includes Syndergaard, Bautista has been clocked as high as 101 mph. Bautista is the Mets' No. 29-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline.

"That's the one that I use the most," Bautista said through an interpreter. "That is the one I'm working to develop."

It was not until two years ago, at age 20, that Bautista began throwing with elite velocity. In the Dominican Republic, he works with a private trainer, playing long toss with softballs before graduating to smaller, lighter baseballs. In that fashion, Bautista said, he has managed to add miles per hour to his best pitch.

Mets officials see Bautista as more of a project than Jamie Callahan or Jacob Rhame, the two young relievers they debuted last season, or even Drew Smith, who has yet to crack the Majors. But he may have the highest ceiling of the bunch. Like many hard-throwing young pitchers, Bautista simply must improve his control after walking 4.7 batters per nine innings last year.

After joining the Mets last summer, Bautista walked merely three batters in 14 1/3 innings -- a small sample that he hopes to expand as his comfort level in the organization grows.

"In the beginning, it was a little bit tough because you have friends, good players, teammates on the team where you're from," Bautista said. "You have to begin from scratch. But so far, it's been a very good experience down here."

Video: Tebow, Callaway on playing time in Spring Training

Prospect showdowns
Tim Tebow has drawn some difficult assignments his first few days in big league camp, taking live batting practice against prospects Bautista and Smith (who also throws in the upper 90s).

Tebow swung through several Smith pitches on Monday, but did not attempt any cuts at Bautista's offerings Tuesday due to a minor ankle issue. Tebow did take regular batting practice following the live BP session.

"I saw it as a regular player, as a regular hitter," Bautista said of facing Tebow. "I faced him like just another guy."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Yo-ga? Cespedes emphasizing flexibility

Mets slugger determined to avoid leg injuries that hampered him last season
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Following two consecutive seasons defined by leg injuries, Yoenis Cespedes knew he needed to make a change. But he perhaps did not realize how deep the problem ran until he stepped into a yoga system for the first time this winter. That day, Cespedes could not even finish the class.

"For a person who is not flexible, it is really tough doing yoga," he said through an interpreter.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Following two consecutive seasons defined by leg injuries, Yoenis Cespedes knew he needed to make a change. But he perhaps did not realize how deep the problem ran until he stepped into a yoga system for the first time this winter. That day, Cespedes could not even finish the class.

"For a person who is not flexible, it is really tough doing yoga," he said through an interpreter.

Over time, Cespedes improved, though he still considers himself a beginner. He plans to continue doing yoga this spring; it's part of a three-pronged plan for Cespedes to avoid the types of injuries that have sidelined him all too often the past two seasons and throughout his career.

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"The yoga has been working for me," Cespedes said. "The last couple seasons, when I showed up down here, my lower back was very tight, and I haven't felt that yet. … My muscles are more flexible right now. When I used to work out with heavy weightlifting, I was strong, but I wasn't flexible. Right now, I am flexible because of the yoga."

In addition to yoga, Cespedes spent his offseason running more than ever before while reducing the amount of weight that he lifted. Gone are the days of Cespedes doing 900-pound bear squats at trainer Mike Barwis' Port St. Lucie studio. Instead, Cespedes focused on exercises he never before paid much heed to, hoping to match the 159 games he played in 2015.

Video: Outlook: Cespedes could rebound if healthy in 2018

His ultimate individual goal hasn't changed -- "I want to be an MVP," said Cespedes, who owns a .900 OPS in 270 career games with the Mets. But his journey to achieve that has been different.

"Injuries are unpreventable, but what I learned is to prepare more to avoid those kinds of things this season," Cespedes said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In the same Spring Training clubhouse as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Todd Frazier and other headline-grabbing Mets, Cespedes has evolved into something of a forgotten man. No longer does he roll into camp in fancy cars. No longer does he parade around on horseback.

Now 32 years old, Cespedes is still in his prime, entering the second season of a four-year, $110-million contract. In year one of that contract, he appeared in just 81 games due to leg issues, missing six weeks at one point because he tried to play through a tweaked hamstring. He never wants to have a season like that again.

"He's taken the first step. He had a great offseason," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "We have to hold him accountable for the things he's going to do. We've got to make sure he's going about his business the right way, fulfilling all those routines that are going to be necessary for him to go out and play every day. But he's taken the first, great step toward that."

Added Callaway: "We want Cespedes on the field as much as possible, that's for sure."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Yoenis Cespedes

Eager for ABs, Flores taking reps in outfield

Callaway outlines expectations in brief team address; Tebow shows new stance in BP
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- About a week ago, Mets manager Mickey Callaway asked Wilmer Flores if he would mind taking reps in the outfield this spring. Flores wasn't particularly surprised. A natural shortstop whom the Mets have asked to play, at various times, every infield position on the diamond, Flores has kept an outfielder's glove in his locker for years. Just in case.

While this latest experiment may be more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency situation, Flores is willing to do anything that could earn him an extra at-bat or two.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- About a week ago, Mets manager Mickey Callaway asked Wilmer Flores if he would mind taking reps in the outfield this spring. Flores wasn't particularly surprised. A natural shortstop whom the Mets have asked to play, at various times, every infield position on the diamond, Flores has kept an outfielder's glove in his locker for years. Just in case.

While this latest experiment may be more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency situation, Flores is willing to do anything that could earn him an extra at-bat or two.

"I don't want to sit on the bench," he said. "I want to play."

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For much of this offseason, it didn't appear that playing time would be any more of an obstacle for Flores than it had been in prior years. But the late acquisition of Todd Frazier changed the equation for Flores, who amassed 362 plate appearances last season playing first, second and third base, as well as frequently coming off the bench.

Even with Frazier around, Flores is still a lock to start at first or second every time the Mets face a lefty. Team officials say he'll also receive some reps at first base against right-handers, with Adrian Gonzalez unlikely to play every day at age 36.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I don't see him at just one position," Callaway said. "This kid can hit -- not only can he hit lefties pretty well, he does a pretty good job against righties. And we need his bat in the lineup as often as possible."

But versatility can only help. In addition to Flores, Jose Reyes will continue to take fly balls in the outfield this spring. Those two figure to constitute half of the Mets' Opening Day bench, along with Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo.

"If I have to be in the outfield to get in at least one more game, I'll do it," Flores said. "It'll be a challenge. I'm used to playing infield. But I'm going to put in the work and try to be the best I can be out there."

Second to none
Although it seemed for most of the offseason that Asdrubal Cabrera would play third base for the Mets this year, he was not surprised when the team acquired Frazier, pushing him to second. Earlier in the winter, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson called Cabrera's agent, telling him to keep his client prepared for both.

As it turns out, Cabrera prefers second base, a position he's played more often than third during his 11-year career.

"I feel comfortable there," Cabrera said.

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Chip off the old block. Asdrubal Cabrera's son, Meyer, was lending a hand during fielding practice today at Mets camp. pic.twitter.com/8cxysXAKNg

Morning meeting
Prior to the Mets' first full-squad workout Monday, Callaway gathered the team's players and staff members together for a brief address, outlining his expectations for the team. The new manager said he kept things as general as possible after spending much of his winter individualizing goals for specific players.

"From here, we have to go out and do all those things we talked about," Callaway said. "Those things are just words. I think the thing that's going to tell the tale is if we can accomplish all those things we talked about every single day to get to where we want to go."

Video: Callaway talks about what he told his new team

Tebow time
Taking live batting practice during the Mets' first full-squad workout, Tim Tebow showed off a much more compact stance than he used a year ago. Tebow now starts from a narrower base, with a shorter overall swing.

He is also 12 pounds lighter than he was last February, when his body was still more geared toward football. Making such changes over the winter, Tebow said, was easier than doing it in-season.

Video: Tebow, Callaway on playing time in Spring Training

"For me, it was going into the offseason and knowing what I had to work on," Tebow said. "It was my first time playing a baseball season in 12 years since my junior year of high school. It's hard to fully make changes in a season when you're competing one night, you work on it the next day and you compete the next night. It's hard for those changes to really lock in."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Asdrubal Cabrera

Darryl and Doc took NYC, MLB by storm

MLB.com

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today we look back on the careers of former Mets stars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Doc" Gooden.

For much of the 1980s, the Mets featured one of the most feared hitters and most dominant pitchers in the game. Fresh off a run of seven consecutive losing seasons, New York returned to contention with the emergence of two young phenoms -- outfielder Strawberry and pitcher Gooden, players whose careers will forever be intertwined.

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today we look back on the careers of former Mets stars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Doc" Gooden.

For much of the 1980s, the Mets featured one of the most feared hitters and most dominant pitchers in the game. Fresh off a run of seven consecutive losing seasons, New York returned to contention with the emergence of two young phenoms -- outfielder Strawberry and pitcher Gooden, players whose careers will forever be intertwined.

In the pair's seven years together on the Mets from 1984-90, the club posted a winning record each season, including a World Series championship in '86. In that span, the Mets never finished worse than second place in the National League East and went 666-466, including two 100-win seasons.

Each player debuted with impressive rookie campaigns, claiming NL Rookie of the Year honors in consecutive years. A 21-year-old Strawberry broke into the big leagues first, batting .257 with 26 home runs and 74 RBIs in 122 games in '83. Gooden followed in '84 by leading the Major Leagues with 276 strikeouts at age 19. He went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 31 starts, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting behind Rick Sutcliffe.

They both competed for the NL in their first All-Star Game in '84. For Strawberry, it was the first of eight straight appearances, while Gooden was making his first of four trips to the Midsummer Classic.

The following year, in his sophomore campaign, Gooden turned in arguably his most successful season, posting a 24-4 record with a 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games and 268 strikeouts. He won the NL Cy Young Award, made his second All-Star team and led the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts to claim the first pitching triple crown since 1972 (Steve Carlton).

Video: Remembering Gooden's historic achievement in 1985

The individual peak of Strawberry's career also came while wearing a Mets uniform. In '87, he joined the 30-30 club with 39 home runs and 36 stolen bases to pair with a .284 average -- his highest for a full season -- and 104 RBIs. He followed that up with another 39 home runs, 101 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in '88, winning his first Silver Slugger Award and finishing as the runner-up to the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson for the NL MVP.

Strawberry and Gooden's best team season came in '86 when the Mets won a franchise-best 108 games en route to the World Series, where they defeated the Red Sox in seven games. It marked the Mets' second and most recent title. Strawberry and Gooden returned to the postseason with the Mets in '88, but they lost to the eventual-champion Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

Video: Take a look back at some of Strawberry's best moments

Their careers diverged after the 1990 season when Strawberry left in free agency to sign with the Dodgers. He spent three seasons in Los Angeles, where his production took a notable dip, then played sparingly for the Giants in '94. Gooden, meanwhile, remained with the Mets through the '94 season.

Both players battled substance-abuse issues, each serving suspensions for testing positive for cocaine during their careers. Strawberry was suspended for the beginning of the '95 season, while Gooden missed the entire season. Strawberry returned to baseball in June that year by signing with the Yankees, eventually reuniting with Gooden, who inked a deal with the Yanks in '96 after a year away from the game.

Though neither player was able to recapture the individual success of their days in Queens, Strawberry won World Series rings with the Bronx Bombers in '96, '98 and '99, though he missed the '98 postseason while undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Gooden contributed to the Yankees' 2000 title team when he rejoined them during his final year in the Majors.

Gooden wrapped his 16-year career with a 194-112 record, a 3.51 ERA and 2,293 strikeouts through 430 games (2,800 2/3 innings). Strawberry retired after 17 seasons one year earlier in '99, finishing with a .259 career average, 335 homers, 1,000 RBIs and 221 steals in 1,583 games.

Neither player received enough votes in his first year of Baseball Hall of Fame eligibility to remain on the ballot, but fittingly, the former New York stars, whose careers will forever be entwined, were elected to the Mets Hall of Fame together in 2010.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

New York Mets, New York Yankees

Alderson: I think Tebow will play in the Majors

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

"That's my guess," Alderson continued. "That's my hope. And to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation."

Tweet from @Mets: .@TimTebow has arrived in camp. #Mets pic.twitter.com/vLmXxk1VRN

What began 17 months ago as a curiosity at best, a publicity stunt at worst, has evolved into something far more legitimate. Tebow reported this weekend to his first big league camp, where the Mets plan to treat him no differently than Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce or any of the team's other outfielders. There is a chance that Tebow begins this year at Double-A Binghamton, just two steps from the Majors.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

So although Tebow stopped short of calling a big league promotion his expectation, he too is beginning to acknowledge its possibility.

"As an athlete, you always want to be the best you can, play at the highest level, win a championship, be the best," Tebow said. "If the best that I can be is in the bigs, that would be awesome. I believe in myself, and so I want to strive for that. But if that doesn't happen, then I won't look back and regret playing baseball, because I've already enjoyed it."

A former Heisman Trophy winner with the University of Florida and an NFL quarterback for the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and Eagles, Tebow began his Minor League journey when he signed with the Mets in September 2016. Competing in the Arizona Fall League that autumn, Tebow spent last spring in Minor League camp, though the Mets frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games.

Over the summer, Tebow advanced to Class A Columbia and Class A Advanced St. Lucie, hitting .226 with eight home runs in 126 games. While he never hit well enough to force his way up the Minor League ladder, Tebow showed enough marked improvement that the Mets felt comfortable pushing him to such heights.

Video: Tebow hits walk-off homer for St. Lucie Mets

That is why they invited Tebow to big league camp in Port St. Lucie, where he will compete against some of baseball's best players. Ever since the end of last season, Tebow has revamped his swing, despite spending much of his winter traveling to the Middle East and South America for foundation work.

"He benefits the Mets because of how he conducts himself," Alderson said. "He's a tremendous representative of the organization. We've been pushing him because there's a finite period of time for this to work. But his commitment to the game has been exceptional. So we're pushing him a little bit and he's here in camp not because he brings some notoriety. He's here because we want to push him a little bit. We think this is the best environment for him to get better."

Often defensive of the experiment, Alderson said Tebow was "phenomenal for Minor League Baseball last year," calling the notion that he shouldn't have a chance to compete "crazy."

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Here are Tim Tebow's own thoughts on playing in the Major Leagues: pic.twitter.com/187hygMPQT

"We're going to evaluate Tim Tebow just as we would anybody else," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "I think Tim Tebow is here because he can potentially help us at the Major League level at some point. He wouldn't be here otherwise."

If Tebow does make it to that stage, he said, his broadcasting commitments to the SEC Network will not interfere. Tebow's other employers understand that baseball is his top priority, even if a segment of the fan base doesn't quite believe it -- and perhaps never will.

"My goal isn't about what's going to happen one day. My goal is to focus on this day," Tebow said. "I can't worry about one day if I'm going to play in the bigs or not. I got into this because I love it."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Tim Tebow

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com @_dadler

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

•  Pace of play rules FAQ

A pitch clock -- giving the pitcher a certain amount of time to deliver the ball -- had been one of the major proposals considered. MLB decided to defer implementation of a pitch clock, as well as a between-batter timer, in order to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

New phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout will be installed and monitored, limiting the ability of teams to steal signs, which is viewed as a contributing factor to the increasing number of mound visits. Rules governing when players can and cannot leave the batter's box between pitches, instituted during the 2017 season, remain in effect.

•  Players, managers react to new rules

"Players were involved in the pace of game discussion from Day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans, but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future," said Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director.

Here is a breakdown of the new rules:

• Mound visits: Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Also, normal communication between player and pitcher that do not require either to vacate their position on the field do not count as a visit. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher's request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher.

Video: Hot Stove on mound visits regarding pace of play

• Between-inning breaks: As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

• Timing of pitcher changes: The timing clock -- as listed above -- also applies to pitching changes, and it will begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

• Instant replay: All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Reyes preps for utility role upon Mets reunion

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- All offseason, the assumption around Flushing was that Jose Reyes would return at some point. Reyes, though, says he did his best to keep his mind off a reunion, lest it not come to pass.

His wish ultimately came true in January, and Reyes returned to Mets camp this weekend, prepared to reprise his role as a super utilityman.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- All offseason, the assumption around Flushing was that Jose Reyes would return at some point. Reyes, though, says he did his best to keep his mind off a reunion, lest it not come to pass.

His wish ultimately came true in January, and Reyes returned to Mets camp this weekend, prepared to reprise his role as a super utilityman.

"To be honest with you, I wasn't thinking about it at all," Reyes said of his free agency. "I didn't want to put too much stuff in my head. I know from the bottom of my heart that I want to be here, but I don't want to get crazy in my head. When that happens, I said, 'This is where I wanted to be from the beginning.' This is where I wanted to be, and hopefully finish my career in this uniform."

The Mets will ask Reyes to take reps at second and third base, shortstop and the outfield this spring, understanding the versatility his athleticism provides. Reyes also credited a swing adjustment he made around midseason as the reason he was able to slash .314/.394/.518 with six home runs over his final 38 games. Prior to that, Reyes was hitting .220/.284/.374 in 107 contests.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Sometimes as a baseball player, that's going to happen," Reyes said. "I know it was hard for me, the first half of the season, but I never quit. I always continue to work every day and try to improve myself, and I feel like in the second half, I did that. Hopefully, that second half is going to carry over for this year."

No more pencils, no more books
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson likened signing Jason Vargas to taking his last final exam, saying the Mets are almost certainly done shopping for players this offseason. While Alderson acknowledged those who believe the team could use a second left-hander for the bullpen, he believes the 2018 Mets are complete.

"We've come a long way from the Trade Deadline last year," Alderson said, referring to the Mets' midseason selloff of veteran players. "With Jason's signing, we're pretty much where we want to be. … I would be surprised, if not shocked, if somebody else walks into this clubhouse."

Video: Callaway on Vargas, possible six-man rotation

Steady as they go
After passing his physical Sunday morning, Vargas officially joined a Mets team counting on him to be a steadying presence for its rotation. Outside of the 2015 and '16 seasons, when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, Vargas has averaged 188 innings per year this decade.

Vargas does not consider his surgery a factor in the midseason slump that saw him go 2-7 with an 8.13 ERA from July 5 to Sept. 5. Vargas instead blames a mechanical flaw that he believes he corrected in September.

"I think we all like to have an excuse to lean on," Vargas said. "But the fact of the matter is my arm felt great the whole year."

Video: Vargas, Alderson on two-year deal with Mets

Who says you can't go home?
Four years away from Flushing did not change much for outfielder Matt den Dekker, who arrived back at Mets camp this weekend after the team signed him to a Minor League deal. A 2010 Mets Draft pick who went to the Nationals in a '15 trade for Jerry Blevins, den Dekker bounced to the Tigers and Marlins before returning to the place he calls home.

"It felt pretty good walking in here, knowing some of the guys, knowing a lot of the staff. It makes it a lot easier," said den Dekker, a Florida native who now lives outside Jacksonville.

Still lauded for his defensive acumen, den Dekker gives the Mets some Triple-A depth behind Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo, all of whom are slated to make the Opening Day roster.

"We just thought it would be a good fit," den Dekker said. "Adding to outfield depth, obviously that was important to them. Whether I'm in Vegas or in the big leagues or wherever, I'm just going to use that to work hard."

Video: MIA@WSH: den Dekker runs down Eaton's fly ball

A special afternoon
Dominic Smith, Nimmo, Steven Matz, Paul Sewald, Ty Kelly and a host of other Mets players, coaches and staffers took to the field on Sunday to conduct a baseball clinic for approximately 80 Special Olympics athletes and their families.

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Dominic Smith, Wilmer Flores, Steven Matz, Paul Sewald and a host of other Mets players, coaches and front office staffers are on the field right now conducting a baseball clinic for 80 Special Olympics athletes and their families. pic.twitter.com/TIlAS2YsEs

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Jose Reyes