Tebow making strides, robbed of first spring hit
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- For all the improvement Tim Tebow has shown at the plate, he remains without a hit through two Grapefruit League games -- though that's hardly any fault of his own. In the second inning of the Mets' 10-1 loss to the Astros on Sunday, Tebow smashed a sinking line drive to left-center field, where Myles Straw ranged over and made a full-extension diving catch to rob him of a two-run extra-base hit.
"I thought I got it pretty good," said Tebow, who finished 0-for-2 to fall to 0-for-4 on the spring. "I think the wind being different today probably affected it, slowed it down a little bit. But the good thing is in Spring Training -- obviously you want hits or doubles or to get it out, but more importantly it's just your at-bats and trying to focus and improve. So it takes away a little of your frustration from that."
If Tebow felt any greater frustration, it stemmed from what happened earlier in the game. Ranging into foul ground to try to catch a fly ball in the first inning, Tebow caught it but had the ball pop out of his glove as he crashed into the Mets' bullpen area.
"I totally had it," Tebow said. "Somehow in my tumbling of hitting whatever I hit, it came out. ... I wanted it, too. I paid the price. I may as well come away with the catch.
"If we had the tuck rule," he quipped, referring to a controversial NFL ruling, "I'd get away with it."
Despite the results, Tebow hit the ball hard in both of his at-bats Sunday, also lining out to left field in the third. He believes his swing is light years ahead of where it was this time last year, when he struck out in 11 of his 19 Grapefruit League plate appearances.
"I feel like I'm improving, and just more confident in it as well," Tebow said.
Taking things slow
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud hasn't appeared in either of the Mets' first two Grapefruit League games, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon. Manager Mickey Callaway said the Mets plan to run d'Arnaud through a series of simulated activities to tighten his throwing mechanics before clearing him for his first game action since April.
d'Arnaud is 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery; the Mets say he is fully healthy, but still not quite up to game speed.
"He'll be in there at some point, but not quite yet," Callaway said. "He's doing really well. The ball's coming out of his hand like a rocket, so definitely the arm strength is there."
With d'Arnaud on the back fields for now, Devin Mesoraco will see added time at catcher behind starter Wilson Ramos. If d'Arnaud cannot round into game shape by the end of Spring Training, it would all but ensure Mesoraco's inclusion on the Opening Day roster -- something his manager insists is possible even if d'Arnaud is fully healthy.
"I think it's an open competition just like everywhere else on the diamond," Callaway said.
From the trainer's room
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who has been slowed by a sore shoulder early in camp, took full rounds of batting practice this weekend and is slated to make his spring debut Tuesday as the Mets' designated hitter. He should appear as an outfielder shortly after that.
A marquee pitching matchup awaits fans Monday in West Palm Beach, Fla., where the Mets are scheduled to play their first road game this spring. Noah Syndergaard will make his Grapefruit League debut opposite fellow right-hander Justin Verlander in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
For the Mets, relief candidates Daniel Zamora, Luis Avilan, Drew Smith, Jacob Rhame and Tyler Bashlor are also scheduled to appear.
Much as Jacob deGrom hit 97 mph in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday, Callaway expects Syndergaard to come out firing heat.
"I'm sure tomorrow is going to be 100 and I'm going to be panicking," Callaway said, laughing. "But that's who these guys are. They're such competitors."