Cano's cleats: Here's to you, Mr. Robinson

Mets second baseman, who wears No. 24, honors Jackie with custom kicks

April 15th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Resting in ’s locker on Monday was a fresh pair of spikes featuring images of Jackie Robinson sliding into home plate, of Robinson’s signature, of his number 42 and the inscription, “Jackie Robinson Day … April 15, 2019.”

The Nike cleats, which Cano ordered from Long Island-based KD Custom Kicks, are an annual way for Cano to honor one of his idols during Major League Baseball’s celebration of Robinson.

“It’s important because he’s the one who opened the door for all of us, especially guys from outside of the United States,” Cano said. “I mean players from all of the countries, all over the world. He made the game more fun because now you have players from all over. More people watch the game. All of that is because of him.”

Like all MLB players, Cano also celebrated Jackie Robinson Day by wearing No. 42 on his jersey. Cano is named after Robinson and originally chose uniform No. 24 -- the reverse of 42 -- with the Yankees to honor him. He could not have that number in Seattle because Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. was the last to wear it, but when Cano arrived back in New York with the Mets, he again asked for No. 24.

For years, the Mets had avoided issuing No. 24 out of respect to Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who wore it from 1972-73. But they gladly unfroze it for Cano, given his longtime connection with both the number and Robinson.

Easy fix

Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland scoffed at the notion that Jacob deGrom, who has allowed nine runs in his last two outings, was tipping pitches in his last start.

“Oh, hell no,” Eiland said.

Instead, Eiland believes the source of deGrom’s issues is a balance problem that manifests itself early in his windup. deGrom is taking longer than usual to get his elbow into the proper delivery slot, resulting in him yanking breaking pitches and losing command of his fastball. The pitching coach has already discussed the issue with deGrom, who will work to fix it during a bullpen session on Tuesday.

Mind over matter

Among the cadre of new employees Brodie Van Wagenen has brought on since becoming general manager is Trevor Moawad, an unannounced hire over the winter. Another connection from Van Wagenen’s days as an agent, Moawad is a self-described “mental conditioning expert” whose clients include major professional and college sports teams across the country. He has worked particularly closely with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

In baseball, Moawad advised teams, including the Yankees and the Mets, for years before Van Wagenen signed him to an exclusive contract to work only with his club. (Moawad retains his consulting agency and continues to work with teams in other sports.) He replaced Derick Anderson, who had overseen the Mets’ mental skills program since 2014.

The team considers that a boon, with Van Wagenen calling Moawad “an important hire for us.” After his last start in which he limited the Braves to two runs in six innings, improving to 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three outings, Steven Matz credited Moawad with a portion of his success.

“For me, I’m always so focused on the physical part of the game -- working out, doing my treatment, doing as much running as I can, getting as strong as I can,” said Matz, who makes his next start Tuesday. “But some of the stuff he shows me with Russell Wilson is that you’ve got to treat your mind like a muscle, too. So that’s something we’ve been constantly stressing. It’s something I never really paid too much attention to or really even knew how to do.”

On the Mets’ last homestand, Moawad gave the team a presentation about Tiger Woods, predicting that the golfer would win another major tournament because of his mental approach. That speech struck several Mets on Sunday, when Woods indeed won the Masters.

“He’s less clinical, and more peak-performance driven,” Van Wagenen said of Moawad. “He’s been a big addition.”

Roster move

The Mets made another move to shore up their bullpen, recalling right-hander Drew Gagnon from Triple-A Syracuse and optioning infielder Luis Guillorme. The move expands New York’s bullpen to eight pitchers -- though with Todd Frazier due back from the injured list likely this week, that alignment should be temporary.

Gagnon appeared in five games for the Mets last season, and he is capable of providing length should they need it. While the roster move leaves the Mets without an obvious backup shortstop on their roster, Jeff McNeil is capable of playing there in a pinch.

Splitting time

Manager Mickey Callaway still could not pin down a return date for Frazier, who has been rehabbing a strained left oblique since mid-February. But he did say that when Frazier returns, he will not be the Mets’ everyday third baseman. Instead, the Mets will mix Frazier in with McNeil and J.D. Davis, using the latter two players in left field as well.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Callaway said. “We’ve got to pick spots where everybody can have success.”