NEW YORK -- Following days of waiting, the Mets finally bused from Washington to Philadelphia on Sunday in advance of their new Opening Day. Four days after their original opener was cancelled due to four Nationals positive COVID-19 tests, the Mets prepared to take on the Phillies in a 7:05 p.m. ET game on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
“These guys are like caged animals right now,” manager Luis Rojas said.
To occupy the hours before departing, the Mets worked out four times at Nationals Park, including a formal intrasquad game on Saturday. Most Mets pitchers either threw in the intrasquad game or, like Opening Day starter Jacob deGrom, in the bullpen.
“It’s just been weird,” Rojas said. “We want to play. I want to see the guys out there competing. … You want them competing against another uniform, going after the win every day and things like that. So, it’s weird.”
Outside the ballpark, Mets players were mostly confined to their hotel. Rojas said he and others occupied themselves by watching plenty of baseball -- including the Phillies, their next opponent. Various players downplayed the idea that their team was put at an unfair disadvantage, given their long layoff and the fact that the Braves -- not them -- will square off against the shorthanded Nationals this week.
To the Mets, the idea of finally playing a real game was the predominant thing on their minds.
“It’s easy to sit back and look at that and talk about how maybe it’s not fair,” catcher James McCann said. “But at the same time, life’s not fair. You also have to have an understanding. It’s 2021. We’re amid a pandemic. It is what it is. You deal with the cards that are dealt.”
From the trainer’s room
Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco continues to advance ahead of schedule in his return from a torn right hamstring. Carrasco threw two innings in a simulated game on Sunday at the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Now two and a half weeks removed from sustaining the tear, Carrasco still must stretch out to 90-plus pitches while also proving capable of making plays around the mound. But it appears possible he could beat his initial six-to-eight-week timeline for a return.
Last week at the Mets’ complex, Seth Lugo began throwing on flat ground for the first time since surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. The throwing progression began right on schedule for Lugo, who underwent surgery in February. Rojas said he hopes to have Lugo, who owns a 3.10 ERA over the past three seasons, back in his bullpen by mid-May.
• The Mets will have fifth starter Joey Lucchesi available out of the bullpen at least for Monday and Tuesday, and perhaps longer than that. Team officials are considering bringing deGrom back on regular rest for Game 5 of the season, which would delay Lucchesi’s starting debut by at least a day -- and potentially by as many as four days, if the Mets decide to skip his first rotation turn altogether.
• As of Sunday afternoon, Rojas was still considering various lineup configurations for Opening Day. Brandon Nimmo is the Mets’ regular leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers, but with the Mets set to face lefty Matt Moore, Rojas identified Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Kevin Pillar as candidates to lead off.