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Mets FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

@AnthonyDiComo
June 24, 2020

NEW YORK -- For nearly nine months, Citi Field has stood mostly empty. The stadium, save for Mets employees and a smattering of players, stayed quiet. That is already changing. Given Major League Baseball’s announcement Tuesday night that a 60-game regular season will commence July 23 or 24, those Mets

NEW YORK -- For nearly nine months, Citi Field has stood mostly empty. The stadium, save for Mets employees and a smattering of players, stayed quiet.

That is already changing. Given Major League Baseball’s announcement Tuesday night that a 60-game regular season will commence July 23 or 24, those Mets players not already in New York will find their way there within the next week.

Play Ball: MLB announces 2020 regular season | FAQ: All you need to know about 2020 season

The Mets’ playoff aspirations will only increase in a shorter season, now that the club doesn’t have to worry about performing better than both the reigning World Series champion Nationals and the National League East champion Braves -- not to mention the improved Phillies -- over 162 games. In a relative sprint, New York will rely on the pitching of two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, as well as a lineup featuring NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Pete Alonso and other young stars in Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil.

No strangers to success over 60-game stretches, the Mets went a franchise-best 44-16 en route to a World Series title in 1986, and they have posted at least a .600 winning percentage in their first 60 games five times -- most recently in both 2006 and ‘07.

Perhaps more pertinently, the Mets produced one of the best 60-game stretches in their history late last summer, when they went 39-21 from July 26 through the end of the season. They rode that momentum into a busy offseason that saw them acquire two new starting pitchers in Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, as well as former All-Star relievers Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia.

Now that they have no choice but to find success over 60 games again, here’s a snapshot of what the Mets have to look forward to:

When will camp start, and where?
Camp will begin July 1, though several players had already begun arriving back in New York prior to the announcement. The club plans to hold all camp activities for 40-man roster players at Citi Field.

When is Opening Day?
July 23 or 24.

Which teams will be on the schedule?
Forty of the Mets’ 60 games will come against NL East teams, with the other 20 versus American League East clubs. Logistically, they will have one of the easiest assignments in baseball, with dozens of games against geographic neighbors within 250 miles of them: the Yankees, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals and Red Sox. Competitively, however, it is one of the game’s more difficult schedules, considering the quality of teams. In addition to the Nats and Braves, the Mets must regularly play the always-formidable Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

What will the protocol be for players traveling from out of state?
Tri-state area governors Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont issued a statement Wednesday announcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from “states with significant community spread of COVID.” That could have prevented players from traveling in a timely fashion to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, but Cuomo later clarified that Major League players will not be subject to the quarantine.

In a joint statement, the Mets and Yankees said that they “have been in touch with Governor Cuomo’s office today and will work with the NY State Health Department on a continuing basis to coordinate the return of players from Florida to train in New York next week. Our two teams, as well as the State Health Commissioner, will work under Major League Baseball’s protocols and guidelines.”

How are the Mets’ injured players doing?
When camp was suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Conforto (strained right oblique) was their most pressing concern. With three months to heal, he should be at 100 percent by the resumption of camp.

Of greater intrigue is Yoenis Céspedes, whose status will remain unclear until he proves capable of playing at full speed in games. Céspedes has not played a live game in 23 months, and in that time, he has undergone multiple heel surgeries and fractured his right ankle in a violent fall at his Florida ranch. He will likely be ready to play by Opening Day, particularly given the availability of a designated hitter in the NL -- but there are no guarantees.

Also unclear is the status of Jed Lowrie, who was unable to play during Spring Training due to a litany of left side issues.

What are some competitions to watch when camp resumes?
A once-intriguing spring plotline -- the Mets’ fifth-starter competition -- became less so when Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery, all but guaranteeing Porcello, Wacha and Steven Matz rotation jobs. A competition could still unfold in the bullpen, where Seth Lugo or Betances could steal save chances away from Edwin Díaz.

Who will serve as the DH?
This is Céspedes’ domain, provided he is healthy enough to play. Considering he was regularly taking full batting practice in March, it seems logical to assume Céspedes could serve as the Mets’ regular DH. They could also use Dominic Smith or J.D. Davis in this spot, giving them one of the most enviable situations of any NL team even if Céspedes proves ineffective in his return to the field after two years.

How will rosters be different? How will those changes affect the Mets?
Rosters will initially consist of 30 players, which will allow the Mets to carry four extras on Opening Day. Fifteen days into the season, roster sizes will be reduced to 28 players. Two weeks after that, they will again shrink to 26.

The rules will initially allow the Mets to carry a third catcher if they desire -- perhaps veteran René Rivera, who was a long shot to make the team during Spring Training. The club also faced a tough spring decision with starting pitcher Walker Lockett, who was out of Minor League options, but should now be able to carry him. The rest of the expanded roster will depend in large part upon the health of Céspedes and Lowrie.

How can I watch the games?
SNY will continue to broadcast most Mets games, with the award-winning team of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the booth. Out-of-market games can also be streamed live on MLB.TV on your favorite supported devices.

How can I listen?
Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo will once again call games on WCBS 880. Every Mets game can also be heard live online or on the go with MLB Audio.

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