NEW YORK -- One byproduct of the universal designated hitter? Mets manager Luis Rojas never uses the same lineup twice. Ever.
Rojas wrote out a unique lineup on Saturday for the 15th consecutive game to start the season -- the Mets’ longest such streak (not including the pitcher spot) since 1998, when Bobby Valentine didn’t repeat a lineup until his 17th game.
Part of that can be credited to evolving managerial tendencies -- newer-school managers like Rojas do not value the concept of having players bat in the same position daily. Part of it has been due to roster churn for a Mets team that has subbed players on and off the active roster on a near-daily basis. The rest is due to the fact that, since Yoenis Céspedes elected not to play the rest of the season, Rojas has used the DH spot to give players regular half-days off.
First baseman Pete Alonso, for example, started at DH on Saturday for the second consecutive game, with Dominic Smith at first. That’s an alignment Rojas had initially been hesitant to use.
“We’re trying to take advantage of the DH spot right now,” Rojas said. From Pete’s side, he hasn’t been able to get off the field a little bit. We wanted to give him that back to back off his feet, make sure we keep him fresh.”
Given the benefit of the DH, the Mets could still play many more games without repeating a lineup -- though they still have a ways to go to challenge the 1962 Mets, who did not duplicate a starting eight until Games 24 and 25 of the season. Counting the pitcher’s spot, the ’62 Mets didn’t repeat a lineup until Games 105 and 115.
“We want to rotate those days off for the guys,” Rojas said. “It’s hot. It’s still a ramp-up, like you guys have seen around the league -- a lot of guys are getting hurt, feeling some aches, and we want to prevent that.”
Stroman still at least a week away
Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who has missed the entire season to date due to a torn left calf muscle, threw more than 80 pitches in a five-inning simulated game Thursday at the Mets’ alternate training site in Brooklyn. Although Stroman looked more athletic around the mound than in recent outings, according to Rojas, he will need at least one more sim game before rejoining the Mets.
That means the earliest Stroman could return from the injured list would be Aug. 16. And it could be later than that if the Mets decide he is not ready at that point.
“He’s responded better to treatments, to the progression from when the MRI showed the tear,” Rojas said. “So he’s in a better spot. Everything is better, from what my understanding is.”
The good news for Stroman is that in continuing to build up his arm, he should be ready to rejoin the Mets as soon as his calf allows. The bad news is the team will not clear him to pitch until he is able to field his position normally, which continues to be a limiting factor for Stroman.
Rookie David Peterson continues to draw starts in Stroman’s absence, but the Mets are eager to get back Stroman, who went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his final four starts last season.
From the trainer’s room
Reliever Brad Brach, who missed most of Summer Camp recovering from COVID-19, recently faced hitters on back-to-back days in Brooklyn -- generally the last step for a reliever before activation. Although the Mets have not announced when they will activate Brach for his season debut, it could be any day.
Like Stroman, Brach was a midseason acquisition for the Mets in 2019. He struck out 15 batters with three walks in 14 2/3 innings after joining the Mets, with a 3.68 ERA.
Night at the movies
The Mets and Citi have partnered to create a drive-in movie event in one of Citi Field’s parking lots. As part of the “Citi Drive-in” experience, the Mets are giving away up to 200 complimentary tickets (one per car) to Citi customers.
The series continues Saturday night with a showing of Wonder Woman (2017), followed by Superman (1978) on Sunday. Guests can purchase pre-packaged food and beverages at the events with all concession proceeds benefiting No Kid Hungry and World Central Kitchen. More information is available at www.citientertainment.com/landing/citi_drivein_cinema_series.