Familia likely to open season as Mets' closer

Bullpen-by-committee strategy still to be employed; deGrom anticipating birth of second child

February 14th, 2018

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While Mets manager Mickey Callaway has said frequently over the past two months that the Mets will use a bullpen by committee, deploying relievers "when it makes sense" based on matchups, pitching coach Dave Eiland clarified Wednesday that will likely open this season as the nominal closer.

"Things can change," Eiland said, "but he'll probably get the majority of the saves."

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The Mets' full-time closer since 2015, Familia missed three and a half months last year due to shoulder surgery, pitching only sporadically in the ninth inning upon his return. Most of the Mets' late-season save chances went to AJ Ramos, who is back this season to form a bullpen core with and .

While any of those four may record the 27th out on any given night, Familia appears to be the team's early first option.

The situation will require a feeling-out process for Callaway and Eiland, who first met as teammates at Tampa Bay's Triple-A Durham affiliate in 1998. The two gradually lost touch until becoming adversaries as pitching coaches earlier this decade for the Indians and Royals, respectively. By the time the Mets named Callaway their manager in November, Eiland had targeted New York's vacant pitching-coach job as a potential landing spot.

"There's extreme talent here," Eiland said. "Not to downplay anywhere else I've ever been, [but] I've never been around a collection of talent like I'm around here in this building now."

Already, Eiland has spotted a mechanical flaw in the delivery of Matt Harvey, one of several Mets starters who have struggled to stay healthy in recent years. When he was Kansas City's pitching coach during the 2015 World Series, Eiland recalled being blown away by the talent of New York's pitchers -- most of whom the team still employs today.

"That's a special group," Eiland said. "You said the sky was the limit then? The sky's still the limit. Why not? I'm a very optimistic person. … I don't put limitations on people."

Rise and grind

Before Mets pitchers and catchers began their first official workout Wednesday morning, Callaway gathered them into a cramped weight room to outline the team's guidelines and expectations. The new manager hoped the unorthodox setting would help instill in his players the importance of routine.

"If we want to do something special, we have to be on point," Callaway said. "We use the word 'accountability' a lot."

Callaway is already preparing the speech he plans to give before the team's first full-squad workout next Monday. Typically, members of the Mets' front office and ownership groups attend that assembly.

"I'm really excited about that meeting," the manager said. "It's my opportunity to address everyone in the organization, basically."

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Check that cell phone

remains in Port St. Lucie with the Mets' other pitchers and catchers, but he is ready to bolt at a moment's notice. His wife, Stacey, is due this week with the couple's second child. But because their home is just a two-hour drive away in DeLand, Fla., deGrom plans to stay with the Mets for as long as possible.

Hair cares

deGrom is not the only Met with shorter hair this spring. Reliever donated 13 inches of curly locks to Pantene, which uses the hair to make wigs for cancer patients.

Unlike deGrom, who insists he won't grow back his hair, McGowan is at least considering it. The Mets outrighted him to Triple-A Las Vegas after removing him from the 40-man roster this winter.