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All eyes on Callaway for first Mets spring game

Wheeler starts vs. Braves; Gonzalez, Frazier also expected to debut
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a way, Mets manager Mickey Callaway says, he needs Spring Training more than the players. Inside a veteran clubhouse, most Mets regulars have "been there, done that" throughout their careers. But Callaway will be managing for the first time when the Mets open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:10 p.m. ET game Friday against the Braves at First Data Field, live on MLB.TV. 

"It's going to be exciting," Callaway said. "I'm looking forward to all of the situations that are going to happen, and having to look at the game in a different light."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a way, Mets manager Mickey Callaway says, he needs Spring Training more than the players. Inside a veteran clubhouse, most Mets regulars have "been there, done that" throughout their careers. But Callaway will be managing for the first time when the Mets open their Grapefruit League slate with a 1:10 p.m. ET game Friday against the Braves at First Data Field, live on MLB.TV. 

"It's going to be exciting," Callaway said. "I'm looking forward to all of the situations that are going to happen, and having to look at the game in a different light."

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

For Callaway, that means leaning on pitching coach Dave Eiland and bench coach Gary DiSarcina, who will help him navigate the decisions that pop up during games. Although the Mets' coaching staff boasts decades of big league knowledge, no one in the dugout has big league managing experience.

"I wouldn't mind playing 60 games for my own sake," Callaway said, laughing. "I think we all have something to learn."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Zack Wheeler will start the Mets' opener behind a reasonably representative lineup. Among the regulars scheduled to play are Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier, Travis d'Arnaud and Amed Rosario. Brandon Nimmo, who could see significant time as the Mets' leadoff hitter this April, will bat first in the opener.

Welcome to the world
Jacob deGrom and his wife, Stacey, welcomed a baby daughter on Wednesday morning. Aniston Grace deGrom arrived at 7:44 a.m. ET, weighing in at eight pounds, two ounces.

deGrom, who left camp Tuesday to be with his wife, plans to return to Port St. Lucie on Saturday.

Harder, better, faster, stronger
It would have been difficult for Gavin Cecchini not to notice that the Mets spent this winter fortifying their infield, signing Frazier and Jose Reyes to contracts that should all but guarantee, barring injury, Cecchini will start this year back at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Spending his offseason at home in Louisiana, however, Cecchini did his best to keep his focus inward. Armed with a personal nutritionist, Cecchini committed to a healthier diet of grilled chicken, fish and vegetables. In the past, the 6-foot-2 Cecchini's playing weight had dipped as low as 180 pounds, due in part to a lack of appetite. Sticking to his nutrition plan this winter, Cecchini packed on 15 pounds of muscle.

"I've learned to like and enjoy that kind of food," Cecchini said. "I never ate it much when I was younger. Now I like it. Your body feels better."

The former first-round Draft pick also continued working in the cage on a series of swing tweaks, most notably closing his stance a bit and keeping his bat angled more toward the ground. Speaking weekly with Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler, Cecchini believes those adjustments, plus his added bulk, will allow him to establish himself as more of a power hitter after clubbing just six home runs in 110 games last year at Vegas.

Even if it may not be enough to crack the Mets' Opening Day roster, Cecchini believes the wholesale changes to his diet and swing will allow him to force his way back up eventually.

"I feel unbelievable," Cecchini said. "The ball is exploding off my bat. Everything is fluid, nice and easy. It feels great. I feel awesome and ready to go."

Turning the page
Still trying to overcome his reputation as an injury-prone pitcher, Steven Matz said Thursday that he does not want to compare his health or his arm to how he has felt in the past.

"I don't want to compare anything," Matz said. "I just want to say right now I feel really good. I'm real excited about where I'm at."

Video: Matz discusses his health, preparing for season

Matz, who threw a live batting practice session Thursday, had surgery in August to reposition the ulnar collateral nerve in his left forearm. It is the same surgery that deGrom came back from last year, when he set career highs in starts, innings and strikeouts. At the end of the season, deGrom said he had never felt stronger.

Drawing a crowd
Tim Tebow continues to draw crowds for his batting practice sessions on the Port St. Lucie back fields. He elicited an audible gasp from those in attendance when he hit the roof of a utility shed with a home run Thursday, one of four he clubbed in a single round. Onlookers estimated the shot at well over 400 feet.

Video: Tebow, Callaway on playing time in Spring Training

Tebow has spent his week in a batting practice group that includes fourth-ranked Mets prospect Peter Alonso, who has also drawn rave reviews for his power.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Wheeler