Mets set for camp with no true position battles

Besides a few questions on bench, bullpen, defending NL champs can focus on fine-tuning

February 14th, 2016

This is the fourth installment in a seven-part Mets Spring Training preview. Next up: Position battles.

NEW YORK -- Check out the Mets' rotation. It's complete. Take a look at their lineup, too. It's more or less set. The Mets at most have a single question on their bench and an open spot or two in the bullpen.

This is not normal. But this is where the Mets, defending National League champions, find themselves as camp opens this week in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Unlike in most other baseball facilities around Florida and Arizona, the Mets don't have rotation spots or starting lineup gigs up for grabs. They just have a roster full of returning players hoping to spend the next seven weeks rounding into peak shape.

Comeback candidates | Newcomers | Prospects to watch

That's not to say there are no jobs to be had. The Mets' crowded outfield, for example, doesn't have much room on paper for backups Juan Lagares or Alejandro De Aza to play. But strong springs from those two could force a change in playing-time distribution, or even a trade.

"The important thing is not to view this as a bunch of regulars and a bench," general manager Sandy Alderson said recently. "It's really about the full complement of players and making sure they all can make a contribution, and giving them enough playing time so that's realistic to expect."

Just don't expect starters Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson to see anything less than the lion's share of outfield playing time, even if the Mets are publicly telling Conforto he still has to earn an everyday role. And don't expect starting middle infielders Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera to give up a majority of reps to backups Wilmer Flores or Ruben Tejada.

In the bullpen, the Mets have four seats labeled in ink for Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins. A host of others, including Jim Henderson, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett and Rafael Montero, will compete for the other three openings. Those spots are fungible.

On the bench, there's ostensibly room for Tejada to serve as a backup middle infielder. But the Mets must first decide if Flores or Kevin Plawecki is capable of backing up first base; if not, the Mets could cut ties with Tejada and carry Eric Campbell instead.

It's minutia, admittedly. With the lineup and rotation already intact, the Mets don't have to worry about the same sorts of camp battles that almost every one of their competitors does. Instead, let the fine-tuning start early and the pennant defense begin in earnest.

Pitchers and catchers report

Feb. 17

Full squad reports

Feb. 24

First Spring Training game

Away vs. Nationals, March 3, 1:05 p.m. ET

Opening Day

Away vs. Royals, April 3, 8:37 p.m. ET