PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most confident man in Port St. Lucie was spotted on the back fields earlier this week, wearing a mint green glove that stands out among his peers. He intends to use that one mostly just for practice, though he’s considering giving it some run in his first start of the season.
It’s a start that Marcus Stroman intends to dominate. Over the course of a 10-minute press conference Thursday, Stroman dropped the following nuggets:
“To be honest with you, my confidence never wavers, ever. I think I’m the best on the field whenever I’m out there, always.”
“I think I have the best core in the league.”
“I also have the best sinker in the league.”
“I’m excited to strike more guys out this year.”
“I think I’m going to be good, really good. I think I should be dominant.”
Of those notions, the most important may be Stroman’s emphasis on core strength. Last month, Stroman posted a video of himself on social media doing a bear crawl exercise while balancing a partially full wine glass on his back. That was the most extreme example of Stroman’s commitment to his core, which he considers critical to his success given his 5-foot-7 frame.
This offseason, Stroman hired Blue Jays head trainer Nikki Huffman away from his former team to become his personal trainer. The two met in 2015, when Stroman returned to his alma mater, Duke University, to rehab from an Achilles tear. Part of the three-person team that ran his recovery program, Huffman followed Stroman to the Blue Jays the following year. She stayed until October 2019, three months after the Mets acquired Stroman from the Blue Jays.
With Huffman, Stroman says, “I feel like I can’t lose” -- though in fairness, that’s an attitude Stroman seems to embody no matter who is close to him. Last year, he went 1-2 with a 5.05 ERA over his first seven starts with the Mets, then 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA over his final four. Because he chalks the discrepancy up to a natural adjustment phase after the trade, Stroman believes his 2020 season will look much more like the latter stat line than the former.
“Obviously,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said, “he doesn’t lack confidence.”
Who’s in left?
Pete Alonso’s outsized presence means any other Met with first-base experience must find somewhere else to play. It’s true for Dominic Smith, who spent his winter training as an outfielder. And it’s true for Matt Adams, who signed with the Mets on a Minor League deal last month. Adams, an eight-year veteran who has spent about 95 percent of his career innings at first, expects to see significant time in left field this spring.
“I like it,” said Adams, who last played the outfield in a big league game in 2018. “It’s definitely a new position for me, but the more I get out there, the more I see the ball coming off the bat in BP and early work and stuff like that … I like it out there.”
This spring, Adams will ostensibly compete with Smith for one of the Mets’ five bench spots. But his roster status may be more closely tied to Yoenis Céspedes, who also plays left. If Céspedes is healthy enough to make the team, it will be difficult for the Mets to carry him, Smith and Adams all on the same roster. If not, Adams’ path becomes more clear.
Those issues will play out in time. For now, Adams is still reveling in the most exciting autumn of his life. After making four pinch-hit plate appearances for the World Series champion Nationals last October, Adams capped his celebration by getting married in November.
“That was probably the highlight of the offseason,” Adams said, smiling.