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Rojas' quick turnaround looms over Mets in 2020

Rojas takes over a complete team. How he handles it is the Mets' biggest question for 2020.
@AnthonyDiComo
February 6, 2020

NEW YORK -- It has been six weeks since the Mets signed Dellin Betances, their last major player acquisition of the offseason. The month and a half since that time has been marked mostly by upheaval. The Mets parted ways with one manager and hired another. They watched a sale

NEW YORK -- It has been six weeks since the Mets signed Dellin Betances, their last major player acquisition of the offseason. The month and a half since that time has been marked mostly by upheaval. The Mets parted ways with one manager and hired another. They watched a sale of the team reportedly fall into jeopardy.

A lot has happened to mask the fact that, heading into Spring Training, this is still one of the most complete rosters in the National League.

“Right now, we’re in a really good position,” new manager Luis Rojas said during his introductory press conference last month. “We’re focusing on this season. We’re very happy where we are. This is a great team and we’re moving forward.”

How Rojas handles his 11th-hour promotion will be the most significant story in Port St. Lucie, Fla., this spring. Many unknowns still exist, from how Rojas plans to run his first camp to his thoughts on various players. The Mets have an uncertain closer situation and a looming rotation competition. They have no idea what to expect from one of their biggest stars, Yoenis Céspedes. There’s a lot for Rojas to unpack as he settles into the job, fresh off a turbulent offseason.

The eyes of a hungry fan base will be upon him throughout Spring Training.

“That’s out of our control what happened,” starting pitcher Jacob deGrom said last month. “I think everybody stayed focused and knows what they need to get done to be ready to play baseball this year.”

Rojas, at least, is uniquely qualified to handle a quick transition. As a member of Mickey Callaway’s staff last season, he had his hand in all aspects of the Mets’ on-field operation. He was also a key liaison to the front office, which leaned on Rojas to communicate information to players in easily digestible ways. Even before the Mets parted ways with Beltrán, Rojas spent significant time in Florida preparing for the season with members of the Mets’ coaching staff. No one is more plugged into the team’s baseball strategies.

What’s more, players have rallied around Rojas since his hiring in late January. Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and others played for Rojas in the Minor Leagues. Robinson Canó became a friend of his after signing with the Mets in late 2018. Rojas has an unassailable baseball pedigree and what appears to be near-universal respect in the clubhouse, giving him a strong platform at the outset of Spring Training.

But Rojas has no big league managerial experience and only one year on a big league coaching staff. How will he respond when things start to go wrong? When injuries hit? When the media starts to grill him? Plenty of unknowns surround Rojas just a few weeks into the job.

This spring, those around the team will spend significant time scrutinizing every action and every word from a man who wasn’t the Mets’ top choice during their initial managerial search in November -- and who is just fine with how things have changed.

“I felt prepared then,” Rojas said. “I feel prepared now.”

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