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Inbox: Was opener a sign of things to come?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo fields Mets fans' questions
March 29, 2019

I’d like to begin today’s Mets Inbox with a bit of news: Gil Hodges Jr., son of the late manager, will throw out a ceremonial first pitch to Ed Kranepool before the Mets’ home opener Thursday at Citi Field. It should make for a cool moment. Between then and now,

I’d like to begin today’s Mets Inbox with a bit of news: Gil Hodges Jr., son of the late manager, will throw out a ceremonial first pitch to Ed Kranepool before the Mets’ home opener Thursday at Citi Field. It should make for a cool moment.

Between then and now, the Mets have five games to play. Time for a dip into the Inbox with Opening Day in the books:

From Opening Day, what do you think is a fluke and what do you think is not? Or is all of it sustainable with still such a long season to play?
-- @jcarrollsports via Twitter

I’m not sure much of what we saw Thursday was a fluke. Jacob deGrom was excellent, which we already knew. Robinson Cano was dynamite, which -- while no foregone conclusion at age 36 -- is likely to continue throughout the summer. Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz are the Mets’ three best bullpen arms. On Opening Day, the Mets leaned heavily on their top-end talent, which is elite.

That doesn’t mean this team is going to dominate every day like it did on Opening Day. The two issues that stand out to me on this Mets roster are things unlikely to show up until a bit later in the summer: age and depth. This is a veteran team relying on mid-30s players such as Cano, Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier; injuries to the latter two have already shown how fragile those types of players can be. The Mets’ rotation features pitchers with lengthy injury histories, and little proven depth beyond the starting five. Of the Mets’ sixth through 10th starters, whom do you trust?

So yes, what you saw on Opening Day is likely to happen again this season. But no, it hardly means the Mets will cruise without encountering a whole bunch of adversity in their path.

What is it about Mickey Callaway that makes him the greatest Opening Day manager in MLB history?
-- @MetsDaddy2013 via Twitter

Perhaps we should ask what it is about the Mets, who have been dominating openers since long before Callaway arrived. It’s remarkable. A franchise with a .480 all-time winning percentage in more than 9,000 games is somehow 38-20 (.655) on Opening Day, and 38-12 (.760) after losing their first eight.

It’s probably not entirely luck. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez combined to start 16 Opening Days for the Mets. Dwight Gooden started eight. Jerry Koosman, Johan Santana, Noah Syndergaard and deGrom have all taken turns. Even in their lean years, the Mets have usually featured some of the game’s best pitchers, and the best of the best tend to start on Opening Day.

Outfield innings. Who will be fourth or maybe third for the year in innings behind Thursday’s starters? Jeff McNeil, Keon Broxton or Yoenis Cespedes?
-- @HasselerSteve via Twitter

I have to choose McNeil. There are just too many questions surrounding Cespedes, from when he’ll return (if at all) to what type of player he’ll be once he does. While the Mets remain optimistic Cespedes can be an impactful player for them this season, the floor for his 2019 production is low.

Broxton will come off the bench more than he starts, especially once McNeil shifts back to the outfield. (The Mets have maintained that McNeil will indeed see lots of outfield reps once Frazier and/or Lowrie return from the injured list.) The Mets see McNeil as an everyday starter; when all is said and done, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him log more time in the outfield than the infield.

Is there any chance the Mets could swoop in and make a play for Dallas Keuchel?
-- @rtpiers via Twitter

I don’t see it -- at least not now. If June hits, Keuchel remains unsigned and the Mets have a rotation hole, then maybe it’s something they’ll consider at that time -- after all, they did just shave their 2019 payroll by $8 million via deGrom’s new contract. But if the Mets were planning on supplementing their rotation to start the season, they would have done so already.

Do you think Lugo is the seventh-inning guy or will it be more of a matchup situation?
-- @MetsSouthFla via Twitter

Matchups and rest will dictate that. Lugo will pitch in the sixth, the seventh and the eighth, perhaps sometimes even in the fifth or the ninth. He will record three outs or two or six or one, depending on the Mets’ needs. Lugo is the Mets’ most versatile reliever; they’ll look for ways to take advantage of that.

With the Mets’ new “team first” offensive approach, will we see more guys try to bunt to exploit the shift? Brandon Nimmo had a great opportunity to lead off Opening Day with a bunt against the shift. Could’ve sparked the offense, and it’s hard to pass up starting the season batting 1.000.
-- @Gunndog10 via Twitter

I wrote a story in Spring Training that summarizes the Mets’ thoughts on the matter. They are going to bunt against the shift. They are going to try to slap balls the other way. They will preach it at the Major League level and teach it in the Minors.

That doesn’t mean Mets hitters will bunt every time they see a defensive overshift, but it is something they plan to attempt on a somewhat regular basis.

Can we get updates on Frazier, Lowrie and especially Cespedes?
-- @jerrycolfer via Twitter

Frazier (strained left oblique) has been doing some light jogging in Florida, and is probably still a couple weeks away at this point. Lowrie (sprained left knee capsule) is even further; while the Mets haven’t placed a timetable on his return, I doubt we’ll see him before late April. As for Cespedes, he’s been doing light baseball activities in Florida but hasn’t started running. Until he really starts ramping things up, it’s not worth projecting when he might return. The truth is, no one really knows.

By the way, I received lots of questions on how the Mets will divvy up playing time once Frazier and Lowrie return. McNeil will return to the outfield but, in reality, the rest of the answer is an old cliché: It will work itself out. The odds of everyone in the infield mix being healthy and productive at the same time are slim.

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