Athletic genes push Nido after COVID bout

March 23rd, 2021

As works to establish himself firmly as the second catcher on the Mets’ depth chart, he has some strong genetics on his side.

Nido’s mother was an Olympic swimmer who represented Puerto Rico in the 1968 Summer Olympics. His uncle was a professional tennis player who played at Clemson University, while his father competed in amateur tennis and golf tournaments. Nido’s grandfather and great-uncle played basketball at a high level.

“My family is very proud of that,” Nido said in a recent phone interview. “We are a very athletic family. It sticks out about my mom -- she was very young, so the work ethic from a young age is something to be really proud of, and definitely has helped me.”

Nido recalls leaning on his mother’s experiences when he moved from Puerto Rico to Florida as a teenager to attend high school. Unlike his relatives, Nido chose baseball over the other sports he played as a youth -- golf, basketball, volleyball -- because he felt he was best at it. That decision also precipitated his move to the U.S., where he went on to play in several tournaments with .

The decision bore fruit as Nido became an eighth-round Draft pick and climbed up the Mets’ prospect ladder, debuting in 2017 before appearing in 84 games the next two seasons. Last year, Nido seemed to be on his way to a breakout -- and potentially to siphoning at-bats away from starting catcher Wilson Ramos -- until COVID-19 interfered. Although reticent to discuss the details of a recovery that cost him the final month-plus of the season, Nido says he was mostly bedridden for 18 days after contracting the virus.

He didn’t return to active duty until this spring, prompting the Mets to explore -- albeit casually -- other options on the open market. But outside of acquiring veteran catcher Caleb Joseph late last month, the Mets did not make a move to replace Nido, who is the heavy favorite to open the season as 's backup.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Nido said. “It’s all good. You never know, maybe I would have come back [last year], rushed, and gotten injured. I don’t really think about those what-ifs. … I just look ahead and prepare for the coming season.”

Camp battles
Without enough innings to go around in Grapefruit League games, the Mets opted to use fifth-starter candidate in a simulated game Tuesday at their Port St. Lucie, Fla. complex. Yamamoto pitched five innings as manager Luis Rojas looked on.

The performance came one day after allowed three runs over 3 1/3 innings of a Grapefruit League game against the Astros. Those two are the primary competitors for the Mets’ fifth starter job.

Asked to compare them, Rojas noted that “it’s tough still right now for us to make that decision,” adding that team officials won’t do so until just before Opening Day.

“I’m learning [about] Lucchesi more,” the manager said. “I like how he controlled the running game [Monday]. He was changing speeds well. His fastball’s got the zip, something he didn’t have last year. … The pitch-type repertoire from Yamamoto is deeper. He’s got a lot of pitches on the menu -- different than Lucchesi, who’s got only like three pitches. So they’re two different pitchers. Both strike-throwers. Both control the running game well. I think Lucchesi’s got more experience starting games.”

… and in the bullpen ...
Reliever continued to make a strong impression at camp, entering Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Marlins with two men on base and no outs in the sixth inning and retiring the next three batters in a row -- two via strikeouts on sliders.

Barnes has now delivered four straight scoreless outings since struggling in his spring debut. He has six strikeouts and no walks over that stretch.

“Those are some of the things that we want to see at this point,” Rojas said.

Mets cetera
· Lindor continued his hot spring with his fourth home run in five games. All have come from the left side of the plate.

· The Mets are still deciding whether Jacob deGrom will start Friday’s game against the Nationals, who will see him six days later on Opening Day. David Peterson is scheduled to pitch the same day, so the Mets may look to give him Grapefruit League innings instead, while stretching out deGrom on the back fields.

· Reliever Seth Lugo (recovery from right elbow surgery) has not begun his throwing program but is scheduled to do so “soon,” according to Rojas. Lugo’s original timeline dictated that he would not begin throwing until the final week of March.