PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Like much of the country, Mets players spent Thursday morning tuned into ongoing coverage of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that occurred barely an hour from the team's Spring Training complex. For two Mets in particular, the tragedy struck even closer to home.Reliever Anthony Swarzak
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Like much of the country, Mets players spent Thursday morning tuned into ongoing coverage of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that occurred barely an hour from the team's Spring Training complex. For two Mets in particular, the tragedy struck even closer to home.
Reliever Anthony Swarzak and infield prospect Luis Guillorme both attended high school in Broward County, where the shooting took place. Swarzak's sister and two of his cousins are actually alumni of Stoneman Douglas High School.
"My heart, it aches for those families, for all of Broward County, for all of the United States," Swarzak said. "This is a sad time that we're living in, and we all have to find a way to rise above it. Love conquers all."
Both Swarzak and Guillorme spent Wednesday evening sending texts to friends and family who still live in the region.
"It's crazy it could happen that close to home," Guillorme said.
Added Swarzak: "When stuff like this happens, you start to think, 'Oh, it's never going to happen here.' But when it happens so close to home, and your phone's getting text messages and phone calls of people actually involved and affected by this, it's a scary, scary thing."
Allow him to reintroduce himself
Although Mets position players do not need to be in Port St. Lucie until Saturday, more and more of them are trickling in daily. The latest was Jay Bruce, who recently signed a three-year, $39-million contract to return to the Mets, and gushed Thursday that it felt like "I never left."
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"Obviously, I went and had a lot of fun and had some great experiences over in Cleveland," said Bruce, whom the Mets traded to the Indians in a waiver deal last August. "But I'm back here now, and hopefully here for the long haul."
Popular amongst his teammates, Bruce spent the morning reconnecting with old faces and introducing himself to new ones. At one point, reliever Hansel Robles came over to Bruce's locker to tell him, in Spanish, that he predicts a 40-homer season from the outfielder.
Bruce, who hit a career-high 36 last season, shared his teammate's optimism.
"I like our team, man, I really do," he said. "I think that it all goes back to health and if we're healthy, I'd put us up against anyone."
Don't skip leg day
Noah Syndergaard has spoken openly about his desire to train "smarter," while still continuing to lift heavy weights. He said Thursday that to achieve those goals, he mostly avoided squats, bench presses and pull-ups while working out at the SoHo Strength Lab in Manhattan this winter.
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Instead, Syndergaard focused on drills such as Turkish sit-ups, landmine chest presses, TRX rows and single-leg exercises.
"Pitching, you've got to be strong, but you've also got to be limber at the same time," said Syndergaard, who missed nearly five months of last season due to a torn right lat. "If one thing's missing, it's probably not going to be pretty."
Aches and pains
The Mets' pre-camp physicals revealed issues for a pair of non-roster invitees. The team sent left-hander Matt Purke, who is competing for a job in the bullpen, home indefinitely with the flu. And it shipped prospect Adonis Uceta back to Minor League camp after an MRI revealed a left hamstring strain.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.