Mets hope medical rebuild leads to better '18

February 7th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Long before the 2017 regular season -- one fraught with injuries and setbacks in Flushing -- came to an end, Mets officials convened at Citi Field to complete a thorough evaluation of their medical procedures. From their training and medical staffs to their on-field and communication protocols, the Mets tore down their chain of command and built it back up from scratch.

This was about more than simply cleaning house, though the Mets did dismiss head trainer Ray Ramirez in the process. This was about finding ways to use cutting-edge training and sports-science methods in an effort to increase wellness, prevent injuries and shorten recovery periods for those that do occur.

With new manager Mickey Callaway and many of his staff members -- coaches, trainers and others -- already in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the team is debuting many of those new protocols this month. And while the Mets will not know for months whether this will make a significant impact on their ability to stay healthy, the entire operation promises to color everything they do this spring.

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"Some of our deficiencies were capacity -- just not having enough personnel," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Second was a desire for better organization of that department -- and by organization, I really mean systems, communication, everything that goes toward a well-coordinated, collaborative effort on behalf of player performance."

This is a far cry from 2010, when the Mets -- following a similar rash of injuries -- stamped placards reading "Prevention & Recovery" throughout their Spring Training complex. This time, the shift involves wholesale personnel changes, from new high performance director Jim Cavallini, a former advisor to the Army, to promoted head trainer Brian Chicklo. Those two will work alongside Mets advisor Mike Barwis, who already had an outsized Spring Training presence with his on-site training facility.

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Already, those folks and others have spent time either working alongside or checking in with various players. For example, one spring subplot will revolve around star pitcher and outfielder , who both missed significant time last year due to injury. Both players also vowed to shift their workout focuses away from heavy weights, and more toward exercises designed to keep them flexible and healthy.

"I'm still lifting heavy, but in a more smart way," Syndergaard said recently. "Last year was not necessarily the most smart thing I was supposed to be doing, as far as exercise choice."

Perhaps that means Syndergaard won't hit triple digits on the radar gun in March, as he has a history of doing. Perhaps it means Cespedes won't set a new squat record at Barwis' facility. However the Mets' new protocols manifest themselves, the team is confident they will make a difference.

Even with new players and in tow, representing part of a $72.5 million roster overhaul this winter, the Mets believe their key to success will be their training and medical staffs. Spring Training will be their first chance to prove that real change is at hand.

"I'm really excited about this," Alderson said. "I think we all are. While we're certainly not going to eliminate injuries, we will have the capacity, the expertise, the organization and the communication among our medical staff, as well as field staff and front office, to optimize performance on behalf of the players."