Mets reduce roster; Smith, Díaz approaching debuts

March 3rd, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The first three weeks of Mets Spring Training were a showcase for some of the organization’s brightest prospects, who offered a glimpse of the future at Clover Park. But they are indeed the future -- not the present. The Mets reduced their roster by 11 players on Sunday, most of them prospects.

The cuts:

• C Kevin Parada
• INF Jett Williams
• INF Luisangel Acuña
• OF Drew Gilbert
• RHP Christian Scott
• RHP Mike Vasil
• RHP Eric Orze
• RHP Cam Robinson
• LHP Danny Young
• LHP Kolton Ingram
• RHP Dominic Hamel

Parada, Williams, Acuña, Gilbert, Scott, Vasil and Hamel all rank among the Mets’ Top 16 prospects on MLB Pipeline. Most of them will likely appear in the inaugural Spring Breakout event -- a league-wide series of games pitting teams of prospects against each other -- on March 15 versus the Nationals.

In addition, all but Acuña and Ingram, who are on the 40-man roster, can return for Grapefruit League games throughout the rest of spring. They are likely to do so at regular intervals.

“It was a really good opportunity to get to know a lot of these kids,” manager Carlos Mendoza said of the youngsters’ time in the big league clubhouse. “Just watching them go about their business on and off the field -- the interactions in the clubhouse with some of our established players, watching them go about their routines and their preparation -- it was really good.”

The Mets have 58 players left in camp.

Sean who?
Following Sunday’s game, Mendoza quipped that the Mets had acquired a new player. He was talking about pitcher Sean Manaea, who had impulsively cut his long locks of black hair earlier in the day and now sports a close-cropped haircut.

Manaea, who hadn’t cut his hair in four years, noted that the lengthy curls would sometimes bother him during games, when they would whip into his face. But mostly, he said, “I just thought it was time.”

Early reviews were positive, even from those who didn’t expect the change. When teammate Michael Tonkin walked through the clubhouse, his eyes grew wide as he caught a glimpse of Manaea.

“Whoa!” Tonkin said, drawing out the word. Manaea simply laughed.

Wet and wild
Sunday’s game against the Astros ended in the top of the sixth inning due to rain with the Astros leading, 5-2. The postponement meant that prospect Dominic Hamel was only able to face two batters -- a disappointment, considering he had about 20 friends and family members in attendance.

But Hamel, who turned 25 on Saturday, could at least take solace in the fact he had extra time to celebrate his birthday with said friends and family.

Nimmo has been found
For the second consecutive year, Brandon Nimmo deliberately began his spring progression slowly. He believes that easing into camp, which Major League Baseball’s lockout forced him to do in 2022, helped him remain healthy throughout that season. So he drew up a similar schedule last spring and is repeating it in 2024.

As such, Nimmo became one of the last position players to appear in a Grapefruit League game, debuting Sunday with four innings in left field.

“We kind of know how the last couple of years have gone -- ‘This is what worked, this is what hasn’t,’” Nimmo said. “Each time we go through it, we know a little bit better what to do. So I feel like this has even been a more seamless process into it.”

From 2018-21, Nimmo averaged 16 Grapefruit League games per spring, but injuries meant that he missed nearly 200 regular-season games over the span. In the past two years, he’s averaged seven spring games and 152 regular-season contests, vindicating his strategy.

This March, Nimmo might play in a few more games than usual, because he wants to receive reps in both left and center field -- a change from past seasons. But his overall workload will still be similar, based in part upon metrics gathered by the team’s performance staff.

(Almost) trumpet time
Closer Edwin Díaz, who has thrown multiple live batting practice sessions this spring but has yet to appear in a game, will do so on the Minor League side on Tuesday. Once he completes that step, Díaz will graduate to Grapefruit League work.

Fellow reliever Drew Smith is due to make his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday against the Yankees.