Notes: Mets turn triple play; Lucchesi K's 4

March 22nd, 2021

Spring Training games may not count in the standings, but they do present situations that players will see over the course of the season -- from the mundane to the exceptional. On the latter end of that spectrum, the Mets completed a rare spring feat on Monday, turning a 4-6-3 triple play in the sixth inning of their 5-4 loss to the Astros.

With the bases loaded and no outs in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jose Altuve hit a looping line drive to second base, where José Peraza picked the ball out of the air just before it hit the dirt. Peraza flipped to Wilfredo Tovar to catch Myles Straw off second base, then Tovar threw across to Brandon Drury to cut down a retreating Jason Castro.

“With a guy like Altuve hitting with the bases loaded, no outs, you know something’s going to happen,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “The ball’s going to be put in play, usually hard-hit. Right at a fielder, we were on our toes to turn the triple play, so it was pleasant in the moment.”

The Mets haven’t turned a triple play in a regular-season game since 2014, when Lucas Duda took advantage of an aggressive Yasiel Puig baserunning mistake to finish off a 6-4-3-2 play against the Dodgers. Monday’s triple play, which benefited pitcher Jerad Eickhoff in his bid to make the team, was of the more conventional 4-6-3 variety.

“It was needed, as always,” Rojas said. “A triple play is always needed when you have a bases-loaded, no-outs situation. It contained some damage. I’m glad the guys were on their toes.”

This marks the second spring in a row the Mets have completed such a rare on-field feat. Last March, reserve outfielder Johneshwy Fargas hit for the cycle in a Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals.

Camp battles

Three of the four innings Joey Lucchesi pitched during on Monday were close to spotless. The other one, not so much.

Lucchesi ran into trouble in the third inning against the Astros, as he continues competing to earn a spot in the Mets’ season-opening rotation. Following a leadoff double just out of right fielder Kevin Pillar’s reach, Lucchesi allowed a key stolen base to Straw, then consecutive singles to Altuve and Robel García. Reliever Jerry Blevins entered at that point, allowing both of his inherited runs to score.

An inning later, Rojas took advantage of this spring’s more flexible rules to reinsert Lucchesi into the game, and he responded with a perfect fourth. Officially, Lucchesi allowed three runs on four hits over 3 1/3 innings, though that hardly told the story of his afternoon.

“I’m just out here doing me,” Lucchesi said. “I can only focus on what I’m doing and being the best version of myself. That’s all I can do. I think that’s not good if you’re worrying about other things than yourself.”

Lucchesi is battling Jordan Yamamoto for a spot in the Mets’ rotation, with Eickhoff and Mike Montgomery on the periphery of the conversation. It has been difficult for the Mets to evaluate those players for multiple reasons. For one, all four barely pitched in 2020 due to injuries and other situations. The Mets also don’t have enough Grapefruit League innings to spread around to everyone, forcing them to use rotation candidates in back-field “B” games.

To that end, Yamamoto will start a “B” game on Tuesday. The Mets will do their best to evaluate it with the tools at their disposal, which include video, Trackman data and the evaluations of coaches who stay behind to watch.

“Having less games in camp, not having split-squad games as well, things like that are definitely preventing us to have guys being evaluated against another team while they’re getting stretched out,” Rojas said. “But we are taking advantage of guys that we have in different places.”

Mets cetera

• Infielder Luis Guillorme was scratched from Monday’s lineup after getting hit by a pitch in an intrasquad game on Sunday, but the injury is not serious. The Mets expect Guillorme to return to Grapefruit League action by Wednesday at the latest.

• Reliever Arodys Vizcaino (right elbow soreness) threw a bullpen session Monday. He is scheduled to return to games by the end of this week.