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Mets starters ready to go for Spring Training

Offseason throwing program has rotation in good shape, according to Callaway
MLB.com @jonmorosi

After the 2017 season was marred by pitching injuries, Mets fans have wondered whether the team's rotation will arrive to Spring Training this year at full health.

At the moment, it appears they will.

After the 2017 season was marred by pitching injuries, Mets fans have wondered whether the team's rotation will arrive to Spring Training this year at full health.

At the moment, it appears they will.

In an interview with MLB.com, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have shown encouraging results through the team's revamped offseason throwing programs. Each is expected to be a full participant when formal workouts begin Feb. 14.

During the same conversation, Callaway revealed one detail about how he will utilize his pitching staff after those starters leave games: He does not plan to announce a full-time closer during Spring Training, preferring instead to deploy right-handers Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Anthony Swarzak and left-hander Jerry Blevins whenever their skill sets are best suited to high-leverage situations.

"I don't think we're going to name a closer to start the season," Callaway told MLB.com in a telephone interview. "If there are three left-handers coming up in a row, we can use Blevins. We want to make sure everyone is pitching when they have the best chance to be successful. I think we have four options to close games."

To that end, Callaway said he plans for Familia to throw multiple innings in some Spring Training games, in order to prepare for regular-season outings in which he'll be asked to record more than three outs. Callaway sees some parallels between the Mets' late-inning group and the manner in which the Indians often used Andrew Miller and Cody Allen interchangeably during Callaway's tenure as the Cleveland pitching coach.

Callaway expects the Mets to alternate between seven- and eight-man bullpens during the regular season, depending on the relievers' workloads and the team's schedule. A crucial component in that strategy is that the Mets have a number of pitchers on their roster with Minor League options remaining, including Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jamie Callahan and Jacob Rhame.

Callaway said he plans to explain to some relievers that they may be sent up and down from the Minors for reasons unrelated to their performance.

"It really helps the roster flexibility when those last two guys in the bullpen have options left," Callaway said. "For the pitchers themselves, it's important for them to know the decisions aren't always based on the way you're pitching. If we play a 17-inning game, someone's probably going to get sent down to bring up a fresh arm.

"That's the life of a baseball player, but the message is that, if you keep pitching well, eventually that cycle will stop for you."

Harvey will be closely watched in Spring Training as he begins his final season before free agency coming off a career-worst 6.70 ERA over 19 games in 2017. Callaway said he's met with the right-hander personally this offseason, and Mets officials are very pleased with a recent Harvey throwing session they watched on video.

"He's in a really good spot, mentally," Callaway said. "I think sometimes people overlook that the surgery he had [to address thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016] usually takes 18 months to recover from. I watched video of his starts from the end of last season, and his stuff was great. He just didn't have the feel.

"When your feel goes away, your confidence goes away, too. I think that was the root of the struggles he had in the last year and a half. He didn't know if he could throw the ball where he wanted to. But in the video we just saw of him [this offseason], he's dotting the glove. He's locating again, and I know he's really excited."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

New York Mets