Notes: Dellin's health; rotation; Thor's slider

February 11th, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When signed with the Mets on Christmas Eve, he did so with the knowledge that one of his close friends and mentors, Carlos Beltrán, would be his manager. The events of the ensuing month may have changed the equation, but not Betances’ commitment to the Mets.

“I felt bad at the time for him,” Betances said. “Obviously, I gave him his space. He has a beautiful family that’s helped him through this process. For me, I’m just excited for our new manager, Luis Rojas. I think a lot of our players are excited about him.”

Rather than concentrate on Beltrán, Betances has focused on his health. Facing only two batters last year due to a right shoulder injury and a left Achilles tear, Betances busied himself this offseason performing ankle exercises that he continues to do regularly this spring. While Betances will need to maintain both his ankle and shoulder throughout the season, Opening Day should not be an issue for the new Mets reliever. Already this spring, he has thrown multiple bullpen sessions, including one on Tuesday.

“I’m confident,” Betances said. “I put in a lot of work this offseason, a lot of hours to make sure that I came into camp ready. I feel good at this point.”

Betances should slot in the late innings for the Mets, perhaps as a primary setup man to Edwin Díaz.

Open competition
To date, Rojas has been hesitant to discuss specific roles for his players. The new Mets manager values flexibility and competition to such an extent that he would not commit to anyone in his Opening Day rotation outside of two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.

“We have six starters, guys that have a recent history of being good starters at the Major League level,” Rojas said. “Right now, we’re not defining the roles. Jake, it probably won’t be a surprise that Jake is probably [starting] on Opening Day. But we’re not defining roles yet of our two, three, four, five or six starter. We’re not there yet. We’re going to sit back and have fun watching these guys pitch in Spring Training.”

Realistically, deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are locks. Marcus Stroman seems a strong bet to earn a rotation spot as well, leaving three pitchers -- Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha -- for two jobs. Rojas mentioned that both Matz and Wacha have bullpen experience, but “right now, they’re our starters.”

“We have six starters,” Rojas said. “Our plan is to watch them pitch throughout Spring Training, have fun watching them pitch throughout Spring Training.”

Former Astros are welcome
Several Mets players said they don’t need explanations from Jake Marisnick or J.D. Davis, two members of the 2017 Astros who now play for the Mets. Davis was a rookie that year in Houston, but Marisnick was well established, appearing in 106 games that season.

“There’s not going to be any animosity toward them,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said. “When you’re in a team setting, any of these guys that are in here now, they’re our guys. That’s the way winning teams are. They bring their guys in and we’re one group -- one winning group.”

Conforto pointed to the Mets’ manager switch as reason for the team to avoid distraction from the Astros' sign-stealing.

“There’s a line that definitely shouldn’t be crossed, and Carlos’ involvement in it, it is what it is,” Conforto said. “Moving forward, I think it’s best that we just focus on us and this season. … We’ll leave the Astros and the Red Sox to deal with that. Our involvement with that was Carlos, and we’ve kind of moved on with that.”

Sliding into spring
One focus for Syndergaard this month is his slider -- a pitch he regularly threw in the low- and mid-90s as recently as 2018, but which dropped to an average of 89 mph last season. Syndergaard not only hopes to reclaim his old slider velocity, but he also believes he showed glimpses of it in his final '19 start.

That day, he threw five of his 18 fastest sliders of the season, according to Statcast data.

“There have been a few mound sessions where I’ve implemented the slider,” Syndergaard said of his early spring work, “and it seems to be back to where it was in previous years.”