Notes: A-Rod won't call game; Canó returns

July 17th, 2020

NEW YORK -- Because he is part of an investment group reportedly bidding on a majority ownership stake in the Mets, Alex Rodriguez will not be in the booth for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast between the Mets and Braves on July 26. Instead, Rodriguez will cover a Dodgers-Giants game in Los Angeles for the network, with Chipper Jones filling in as an analyst for Braves-Mets.

The conflict of interest is only applicable for one night, as ESPN does not feature another Mets game on its Sunday Night Baseball schedule. But ESPN senior vice president of production and remote events Mark Gross said on a conference call that the network is not comfortable having Rodriguez work Mets games for the time being, regardless.

“Right now, we’d certainly shy away from having Alex do the Mets game, just so we don’t put him in a bad position,” Gross said. “We don’t want to put the Mets in a bad position.”

Rodriguez otherwise declined comment on his pursuit of an ownership stake, saying, “Obviously, I have limitations on what I can talk about the Mets.”

He and his fiancée Jennifer Lopez headline a group reportedly bidding against several others -- including one led by hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen -- to purchase the Mets from the Wilpon family.

A childhood Mets fan, Rodriguez has often expressed an affinity for the franchise. During an ESPN telecast in 2018, he implied that he regretted never signing with the team as a player.

“Keith Hernandez was my favorite player,” Rodriguez said. “It would’ve been a great story for me to play for the team I grew up watching.”

Canó confident
Despite missing six days of camp due to a personal issue, Robinson Canó said he plans on being ready for Opening Day.

“That’s the goal,” Canó said.

For Canó, the challenge will be preparing for a season with only about a week to do so. In a normal Spring Training, Canó would have been able to log seven to nine at-bats per day in Minor League games on the back fields. In Summer Camp, he has fewer options to see live pitching. Those include live batting practices during the mornings and intrasquad games at night.

“He needs reps,” manager Luis Rojas said. “I think, physically, he looks great. He brought a great physical condition to camp. But the timing is a different thing. He needs to match up against pitchers.”

Still, Canó is confident he can make up the difference. He spent time Thursday hitting curveballs from a machine, and he believes he is in peak shape due to the hours he spent working out with his father in the Dominican Republic during Major League Baseball’s coronavirus shutdown.

“I don’t want to say that I feel behind,” Canó said. “We have a week left. I can get some more at-bats, between 20-25 at-bats. The main thing right now is that I feel good physically, and that I was able to keep myself in shape.”

As for his absence, Canó declined comment. The Mets, as is their policy during Summer Camp, did not provide a reason other than to say that he was not suffering from a baseball-related injury.

“I had some personal issues that I would like to keep to myself,” Canó said. “I want to thank the team for understanding. I’m back. I’m just focused now on playing the game and helping this team to win a game.”

Wacha dominant
Slated to stretch out to around 65 pitches in Thursday’s intrasquad game, Michael Wacha was so efficient that the Mets needed to keep throwing batters his way. Wacha recorded four outs in the third inning, five in the fourth and four in the fifth, as the Mets bent the rules of a normal game to give Wacha the work he needed.

All told, Wacha retired 19 of the 20 batters he faced. The only exception was due to a Dominic Smith throwing error at first base.

“Tremendous changeup,” Rojas said. “He kept batters off-balance.”

Another highlight of the Mets’ intrasquad was reliever Drew Smith, who struck out Yoenis Céspedes and Pete Alonso in succession to strand two runners on base, showcasing a mid-90s fastball in the process. Now 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Smith should be a consideration for the Opening Day roster.

Team White beat Team Blue, 3-1, on the strength of Wilson Ramos’ two-run homer.

But will they buy hot dogs?
As several Mets players emerged from the clubhouse on Thursday, they shot curious looks toward the stands, where team employees had installed hundreds of cardboard cutouts depicting the faces of fans.

The cutouts represented the first wave of season ticketholders whose likenesses will appear at Citi Field for free during the season, in exchange for those ticketholders renewing their packages for 2021. Smiling faces lined the first nine rows behind home plate from sections 11-19, and will soon expand to other parts of the seating bowl. The Mets have announced a program for non-season ticketholders to purchase cutouts for $86 each, with net proceeds going to the Mets Foundation.

More details are available at

Back in uniform
Infielder Gordon Beckham returned to Summer Camp on Thursday after missing the previous two days for an undisclosed reason.

Up next
The Mets will play one more intrasquad exhibition on Friday, before squaring off against the Yankees at Citi Field on Saturday night. Rojas declined to say who would start that game, though it will take place five days after Marcus Stroman’s most recent outing.