WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Mets lost a piece of their position-player depth on Monday, when an MRI on José Martínez's left knee revealed a torn meniscus. Martínez will undergo surgery this week and will miss approximately four months of the season, according to manager Luis Rojas.
The Mets had signed Martínez to a split contract over the offseason, with plans to have him compete for a job on their Opening Day bench. But Martínez injured himself chasing after a batted ball in Sunday’s game against the Marlins, planting his leg awkwardly as he sought to avoid a collision with the first-base umpire. He needed a cart to move around the clubhouse that evening and felt no better upon waking up Monday.
Still, the Mets retained optimism until Monday’s test results dashed those hopes.
“I’m a little surprised with the [time frame],” Rojas said. “I expected it to be something that will take time to have him back on the field, but not as long as four months. … We’ll just right now pray for the best for him, that surgery goes well and the recovery goes well.”
Even before his injury, Martínez had been on the Mets’ roster bubble as a right-handed hitter with significant power but some defensive limitations. Now that Martínez is no longer in consideration for Opening Day, the team’s bench decisions are relatively straightforward: Barring another injury or a breakout performance in camp (or a decision to go with a four-man bench), the Mets are likely to carry catcher Tomás Nido, infielders Jonathan Villar and Luis Guillorme, and outfielders Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr.
In addition, the Mets have plenty of others in camp on Minor League deals, including veterans Brandon Drury, Jake Hager and Mallex Smith.
“We have a lot of depth,” Rojas said.
A day after Jeff McNeil made three errors at third base, J.D. Davis -- the Mets’ presumptive starter at third -- committed another in the Mets’ 9-5 loss to the Nationals. With some help from teammate Francisco Lindor, Davis has spent the first half of Spring Training trying to perfect his footwork. His pre-pitch setup is closer to home plate this year, and he’s lost about 15 pounds, all in an effort to prove he deserves to be an everyday starter.
“I’m feeling more comfortable there as days go by,” Davis said. “My problem is never my hands. It’s always just the footwork and being able to create angles, and just work through balls. Especially at the hot corner, you’ve always got to move your feet. That’s just the biggest thing.”
Mets officials spent much of the offseason exploring alternatives at third base, before ultimately deciding to go with Davis, who followed his breakout 2019 campaign with a disappointing .247/.371/.389 slash line in '20. Because of that, his job status remains tenuous. In addition to Villar and Guillorme, who are both candidates to steal reps from Davis at third, team officials have reportedly expressed interest in free agent Maikel Franco.
Even so, Davis believes a full spring at his natural position will be enough to quell the organization’s concerns.
“I don’t think there’s really much pressure,” Davis said. “I know what I’m capable of with the bat. It’s just a matter of time between getting reps and getting acclimated.”
Bringing the heat
Fourth-ranked Mets prospect Matthew Allan lit up the radar gun in his first career Grapefruit League game, sitting 96-97 mph with his fastball. Although Allan allowed four hits and three runs (one earned) in his inning, he was hurt by some rotten luck -- a bloop and a swinging bunt both went for hits -- as well as a fielding error behind him.
“I think it’s a good experience for him to get out there,” Rojas said. “The stuff, as you saw, was crisp. He maybe overused his fastball a little bit too much. He was trying to find his command.”
Allan is one of several blue-chippers in camp as the Mets look to give their prospects experience following a lost Minor League season. And that group is not just here for show. In addition to Allan, the Mets have given significant game reps to Pete Crow-Armstrong, Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez and others.
“So far, my short time being here, it’s been remarkable,” Allan said earlier this spring. “Just being around all the guys, seeing guys up close, what they look like, how they go about their routine … that’s a big thing that they stress for me about being here is to learn more about yourself.”
• Starting pitcher Jordan Yamamoto allowed two unearned runs in three innings against the Nationals. He’s ostensibly competing for a job in the rotation, but appears more likely ticketed for the Mets’ alternate training site once camp breaks.
• Taijuan Walker will make his Mets debut Tuesday against the Cardinals in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Walker was a bit behind the Mets’ other starters because of how late he signed, but he has been throwing regular bullpen sessions and should have enough time to ramp up for Opening Day.
• Of the five unearned runs the Mets allowed on Monday, one was charged to Dellin Betances, who hit 94 mph on the radar gun but generally sat lower, at 91-92 mph. Betances is hopeful for a turnaround after producing a 7.71 ERA during an injury-plagued 2020. “I’ve still got some time,” he said. “There’s stuff that I can do a lot better.”