Mets’ roster concerns amplified by World Baseball Classic
PORT ST. Lucy – The biggest question in Mets camp will soon surround the players who are no longer in Mets camp.
Nine players on their 40-man roster — including their entire starting field — can participate in the World Baseball Classic starting Wednesday.
Every team will have concerns about their players being thrown into intense, international competition after a few weeks of ramping up, but few teams are better represented than the Mets.
On Saturday, Mets manager Buck Showalter spoke with Team USA manager Mark DeRosa and delivered a message: “Make sure they all come back healthy.”
Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raleigh have all left Mets camp to play for America.
Edwin Diaz and Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico), and Eduardo Escobar and Omar Narvaez (Venezuela) are also set to represent their home countries.
Eliezer Hernandez is part of Venezuela’s designated pitcher pool.
Several who are not on the 40-man roster will also play in the tournament.
As other clubs hold cutbacks to cut through major league camp, the Mets may seek additional organizations.
There are some health-conscious compromises — Diaz won’t pitch on back-to-back days — but players who are used to slowly building strength through camp could instead be at the forefront of their hometown glory.
Here are more questions facing the Mets after Monday’s first off day of the Grapefruit League season, which came two weeks after their first full-squad workout:
Can this rotation be sustained?
A few weeks into the camp, a 34-year-old and a 27-year-old suffered health problems.
The other top picks for the Mets’ rotation — 40, 38, 35, 30 and 27 — still stand.
This old rotation had always been a concern.
Jose Quintana had a small stress fracture in his left fifth rib, the Mets said Monday, a day after he reported side tightness.
The team is yet to release a timetable for his return.
David Peterson, a depth reliever, returned from his left foot on Saturday and appears to have escaped the worst, sustaining a concussion and being listed as day-to-day.
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco enter the season with 45 years of big league experience.
Kodai Senga, who made his exhibition season debut on Sunday, is technically a rookie but has plenty of innings up his sleeve.
The Mets will have to examine their rotation depth — and likely soon.
Rounding out the rotation are Peterson and Tyler Magill.
Next in the batch are Hernandez and Joey Lucchesi, who is coming off his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
Can a kid crack the roster?
Probably not, but they are pursuing their cases.
Brett Beatty has the most realistic shot, his towering bat threatening Escobar’s reign at third base.
But the 23-year-old has also shown a shaky glove, and Showalter has said repeatedly that the Mets will greatly appreciate the defense.
Batty, who has opened 8-17 with a home run in the Grapefruit League, will likely need to crush Triple-A pitching for a call-up as well.
Ronnie Mauricio and Mark Vientos are taking similar snaps and present more defensive concerns.
Mauricio, a shortstop, will have to learn another position (perhaps second or third base and perhaps an outfield spot) in the minors.
Vientos, a corner infielder, needs to prove his glove isn’t a liability.
Vientos reached the majors late last season as a righty-hitting designated hitter, and that spot could open up again.
Darrin Ruf, who struggled with the Mets last season, has yet to debut because of a wrist problem.
Who wins the final bullpen spot?
Diaz, Ottavino, Raleigh, David Robertson and Drew Smith are out of a job.
Stephen Nogosek (who is out of options) and Zach Green (a Rule 5 pick that will be offered back to the Yankees if he doesn’t make the team) are the frontrunners for the Opening Day bullpen as they likely will be lost. .
That leaves one spot open from a group that includes Jeff Brigham, Sam Conrad, John Curtis, Bryce Montes de Oca and Stephen Ridings.
All have flashed good stuff, and all can be optioned to the minors.
It’s also possible the Mets take Hernandez or Lucchesi as a long man.
Finding Nimmo (and Marte).
Two of the Mets’ three outfielders have yet to debut in the exhibition season, though concerns for both appear to be lessened.
Brandon Nimmo is taking it slow in what could be a long spring training.
Starling Marte is expected to get his first taste of the Grapefruit League this week after offseason surgery on both groins.