GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins spent a lot of years with the Philadelphia Phillies antagonizing New York Mets fans with his swagger and competitive spirit. He was among a select group of opposing players that fans in Flushing Meadows most loved to hate.
But when Rollins assembled his choice of preferred offseason trade destinations, the Mets ranked surprisingly high on his list.
Rollins' 15-year tenure in Philadelphia ended in December when the Phillies traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor-league pitchers. He had to waive his 10-and-5 trade rights to allow the deal to come to fruition.
If it hadn't been the Dodgers, Rollins said Saturday, the Mets were the second most likely alternative.
"This was my No. 1 landing spot," Rollins said from Los Angeles' spring training camp, "and I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there -- oh my gosh.
"I'm not saying I would have gone there. It would have taken a lot. But when I was asked, 'Write down the places you would go if you don't have any (no-trade protection),' I had one team on my list and another where I would go if it didn't work out. Fortunately it worked out here (in Los Angeles). I'm very delighted with that."
Rollins' comments appear to run counter to previous reports that the Mets inquired into his availability over the winter, only to be told he would not waive his no-trade rights to play in New York.
Lagares still will need to demonstrate better plate discipline during spring training. Collins said he would like to see Lagares' on-base percentage rise to at least .330 to .340 to be acceptable in the role. Lagares had a .321 OBP in 2014.
"You'd like it higher, but we've got to start with a reachable number for sure," Collins said.
Using Lagares as the leadoff hitter would allow Collins to consider batting Granderson No. 2 and potentially move Daniel Murphy to sixth, where Murphy presumably would be presented with more run-producing opportunities.
"I think he's got a ways to go," Collins said about Lagares' plate discipline. "He tries it, for sure. The thing I liked about it is he is trying to do it. But one of the things about him, being a young guy, he doesn't want to get in too big a hole where he can't get himself out of it. But, as I've said before: We asked him to pull the ball, he started pulling the ball. We asked him to start running the bases more, he ran the bases more. So now we're saying, 'Hey, look, you've got to shrink the strike zone down and be a little bit more patient at the plate.'
"Again, if you're looking for strike one and you get where you're looking, do some damage on it. Otherwise, you've got to have the patience to take it. And I know he's trying. I know he's going to try. So we'll get him a look this spring."
Other notes from a soggy Saturday at Mets camp:
• The Mets merely worked in indoor cages and at Mike Barwis' on-site facility because of rain. Collins said at least it was early in camp, as opposed to having preparations being disrupted close to Opening Day.
• Matt Harvey should face teammates who are swinging in batting practice Monday, ahead of Friday's scheduled Grapefruit League start against the Detroit Tigers.
• The Mets will play an intrasquad game Tuesday, on the eve of Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Atlanta Braves at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
• Long said Curtis Granderson can be a capable leadoff hitter.
"When I've seen Curtis, and I've seen him at a very high level, he's able to get on base," Long said. "He's able to drive the ball. Certainly the top of the order, those guys are going to get more at-bats throughout the year. Let's say he hit sixth. So he'd probably lose, I don't know, 70-80 at-bats to the guy who hits leadoff. ... There are some other options. So that's not etched in stone. We'll see how this plays out. Terry ultimately is going to have the final say-so on that. But Curtis has done it before. He's capable of doing it."
The alternative, and apparent preference for the leadoff role, would be Juan Lagares.
Long used Robinson Cano as an example of someone he worked with to get better plate discipline.
"Instead of trying to get there all at once, you gradually get there," Long said. "So we'll do strike-zone stuff where we'll say, 'OK, let's just swing at pitches middle [or] middle-away. Anything in, take it. Instead of trying to cover the whole strike zone and expand it.' And you can do it early and you can do it in plus counts and a lot of times that will help as well. He's got a good swing. And he's always had the ability to get hits. He finds a way. I think he hit .285. The major league average is .250. So he's 35 points up there. I think the point we're looking at is: What is his on-base [percentage]? It's probably .315-.320. If we can get that number up to .350-.360, you've gained on it quite a bit."
With Granderson, Long added: "We're going back to the blueprint of when he was with the Yankees. There are a couple of minor things that we're working on. One is getting his hands into a consistent position and getting him to feel the consistency that he had, the shortness to the ball, obviously the compact swing that he had, the explosiveness. It's all in there."
• Asked whether David Wright could not generate power a season ago because of the shoulder issue, Long said: "He's a tough one for me to give you an honest evaluation of. I wasn't here. I didn't live it. I didn't see it. I couldn't see his face. I don't know what kind of workload he was able to do or not able to do. Certainly I can tell you that if I've got a shoulder issue and I need to get extension, at some point it's going to pinch. It's going to hurt. So if you saw him cutting off his swing and not getting through baseballs, or not driving the ball, you can put two and two together and probably say that had something to do with it."
Long noted the similarity between how Carlos Beltran's elbow issue affected him with the Yankees and how Wright may have been impacted by the shoulder.
FIRST PITCH: So what do the Mets do Saturday to top Friday’s session involving Matt Harvey facing batters?
Well, at least Saturday the hitters actually will be swinging at the batting-practice pitches. The first two days of full-squad workouts, they just stood in the box and tracked the pitches.
The Mets also are having a press conference Saturday featuring “celebrity” hitting coach Kevin Long, who apparently has been off-limits until now.
• Harvey threw 43 pitches Friday in what, at least technically, was his first time facing batters since undergoing Tommy John surgery Oct. 22, 2013. Terry Collins indicated the true milestone would be next Friday when Harvey is due to face the Detroit Tigers in the Mets’ first home Grapefruit League game. Harvey was pleased with Friday’s session and indicated he was “in compete mode.” Read more in the Journal, Times, Post, Daily News, Record, Newsday and at CBSSports.com, NJ.com and MLB.com.
• Bartolo Colon is strongly being considered for the Opening Day start April 6 in D.C., sources told ESPNNewYork.com. He presumably would face Washington Nationals newcomer Max Scherzer if it materialized. One other, undisclosed pitcher is being considered, too.
• Jose Reyes criticized Ruben Tejada, essentially saying his successor at shortstop for the Mets did not work hard enough to cement a long-term hold on the position. It is worth noting that Reyes never speaks with malice -- well, except perhaps for that time he was talking about Marlins ownership encouraging him to buy a house in Miami. Tejada and Reyes also have the same agents. Read the original story from Anthony Rieber in Newsday.
• Nelson Figueroa said he “considered it an honor” that Jerry Seinfeld greeted the announcement of him replacing Bobby Ojeda on SNY with such hostility. "Jerry Seinfeld had my name in his tweets. I don’t think there’s many people that can say that’s how their career started," Figueroa told Matt Ehalt in the Record.
Seinfeld tweeted on Feb. 16 to his 2.74 million followers: Nelson Figueroa is taking over for Bobby Ojeda as analyst on pregame and postgame show. #mets "Booooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!"
Seinfeld is a big Mets fan and apparently really enjoyed Ojeda’s postgame critiques of the team. Ojeda and SNY did not come to terms on a new contract.
Read more in the Daily News.
• There is not much drama in this ESPNNewYork.com projection of the Opening Day roster. Read more on why Kirk Nieuwenhuis should beat out Matt den Dekker for a roster spot in the Post and at MLB.com.
• From the bloggers … Mets Report wonders about Lucas Duda's injury.
BIRTHDAYS: Brian Bannister turns 34. ... Farmhand Shane Bay was born Feb. 29, 1992.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Do you think Jose Reyes will ever wear a Mets uniform again?
You know some days you just need to take a nap.— Chasen Bradford (@cbBaseball29) February 27, 2015
"When I was there, I always give a lot of advice to him. We were always together. My last year there, every time I talk to him: 'This is going to be your position for a long time. Don't let it go away.' See what happened now? It's 2015 and he doesn't have a position to play. When they talk about who is going to play every day, they don't talk about Tejada. They talk about [Wilmer] Flores. ...
"A couple of spring trainings ago, he came to spring training overweight," Reyes continued. "I mean, stuff like that. You play shortstop, you have to be in shape. You have to work in the offseason. That little stuff can hurt you at this level because if you get overweight at shortstop, you're going to get slow."
Unless you really care who claims the final bullpen spot until Bobby Parnell is activated from the disabled list, there ain't much drama projecting the Mets' Opening Day roster.
Provided Dillon Gee is not traded and ends up assigned to the bullpen, and assuming the team is healthy entering the season, there is very little competition at all.
Travis d'Arnaud, c
Lucas Duda, 1b
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Wilmer Flores, ss
Curtis Granderson, lf
Juan Lagares, cf
Michael Cuddyer, rf
Analysis: Duda will not be able to swing for at least another week because of a lingering intercostal muscle strain on his left side. But it's still more than a month until Opening Day.
Anthony Recker, c
Eric Campbell, if/of/c
Ruben Tejada, if
John Mayberry Jr., of
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, of
Analysis: Terry Collins on Friday tried to play up a competition between Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker for a backup lefty-hitting outfield spot and pinch-hitting role, saying the club needs to take the 25 best players. This is the real world, though, and that's not how things work. Because Nieuwenhuis is out of options, he would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A. For the Mets to be OK with the risk of losing Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker would have to outplay him by a mile. And that's unrealistic in Grapefruit League play. Den Dekker does have an option remaining and therefore likely is ticketed for Las Vegas.
Matt Harvey, rhp
Zack Wheeler, rhp
Jacob deGrom, rhp
Bartolo Colon, rhp
Jonathon Niese, lhp
Analysis: About the only drama here is who starts on Opening Day and if the Mets line up Harvey's second start for the home opener. The answer to question No. 1 may be Colon.
Jenrry Mejia, rhp
Jeurys Familia, rhp
Vic Black, rhp
Carlos Torres, rhp
Josh Edgin, lhp
Sean Gilmartin, lhp
Parnell, rhp (DL)
Analysis: Barring a Gee trade or injury, you seemingly can all but bank on 24 of the 25 roster spots. The lone curiosity is the placeholder for Parnell. The Rule 5 pick Gilmartin would make sense, at least if he shows some promise during spring-training games. Since he has to be offered back to the Minnesota Twins if he is not going to stick on the major league roster, why not give him a few-week in-season audition as the second left-hander until Parnell is activated? If it doesn't work out, no harm. Just send him back when Parnell joins the club roughly three weeks into the season.
Candidates already on the 40-man roster (Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, Jack Leathersich, Hansel Robles) would seem to have an advantage over a non-roster candidate -- although you cannot rule out Buddy Carlyle based on his performance last year and the fact that he has an out at the end of spring training if he's not making the big-league club.
Why does it generally make sense to use someone already on the 40-man roster in this scenario? Because if the bullpen spot is only temporary until Parnell returns, it makes little sense to add someone to the 40-man roster that you might then risk losing if you have to place them on waivers to send them to Triple-A a few weeks later.
Although the 40-man roster is currently full, there would be an available spot if the Mets wanted to add Carlyle. After all, by adding Carlyle, it would mean Gilmartin is not joining the club. Therefore, his 40-man roster spot would be freed. And, on the position-player side, Cesar Puello is out of options and is unlikely to make the club. Either Puello will be claimed off waivers or clear. If it's the latter, he's at Las Vegas but off the roster.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At 6-foot-6, top prospect Noah Syndergaard is not often the undercard. Yet that's exactly what Syndergaard found himself on a gray Friday morning at Mets camp.
Matt Harvey attracted a sizable crowd as he warmed up on a side mound for his first time facing batters since Tommy John surgery. And when Harvey completed his warm-up pitches and headed to a field to throw batting practice, the crowd followed him, leaving Syndergaard to take the same mound that Harvey had occupied in relative solitude.
Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22, 2013, proceeded to throw a total of 40 pitches to teammates, beginning with David Wright at 10:08 a.m., followed by Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy. The batters simply tracked pitches and did not swing.
"It was awesome," Harvey said. "Obviously throwing a bullpen on the '10-pack' with nine other guys is a different feeling than facing basically our 'Core Four,' or whatever you call it. You step in the box and you have David in there, it's a good feeling to have that and be back. I couldn't feel better. It was a good day.
"The biggest thing today is getting used to having somebody in there and getting that feel of somebody standing in the box. Obviously them not swinging, you don't quite get all the feel of what you need to work on or exactly what is working at the time and what isn't."
Harvey divided his workload into a pair of 20-pitch simulated innings. After each of those frames, he headed to the first-base sideline, as Syndergaard alternated with his own half-inning. Teammates greeted Harvey with high-fives both times he trotted off the field. The crowd cheered, too, an atypical occurrence at a generally sleepy camp. The large media contingent, which included the ESPN crew putting together an "E:60" special about Harvey to be televised April 4, chronicled Harvey's every move.
Harvey at one point asked Wright to contrast how he looked compared with two spring trainings ago at this point, when Harvey was preparing for what would be a dominant season until he was derailed by the ulnar collateral ligament tear.
"He had great feedback," Harvey said. "He felt it was very similar, if not better, than before. I think [with] the excitement of looking toward a full first season in 2013, I might have been a little more pumped up than I was today. But as far as location and the way things felt, it was pretty successful."
Said Wright: "I just saw a guy that was happy to be back out there. There's only so much you can tell from 20 pitches in February, standing in there just taking pitches. The biggest thing was it looked like the ball was coming out pretty free and easy. You could see the smile on his face from him being happy to be back out there. As a teammate and a friend, I was happy he was able to get back out there."
Terry Collins suggested the true milestone will come next Friday, when Harvey faces the Detroit Tigers in his first game since the elbow surgery.
"Obviously it will be an exciting day finally facing another team," Harvey said. "As far as mentality goes toward that, it's not a playoff game. It's still really working on your pitches. Really paying attention to what guys are swinging at and what guys aren't is the biggest thing. It'll be early March, so we still have a long way to go."
Collins noticed a difference between Harvey's first seven pitches and the final seven pitches of the batting practice session. Although there was no radar gun clocking Harvey's pitches, the manager estimated that Harvey's final pitch, a two-seam fastball, registered 94-95 mph.
After Harvey completed his second 20-pitch frame and again accepted congratulations from teammates, he jogged toward the Mets clubhouse. As Harvey jogged through the outfield, with his back to the spectators who had just watched his session, a photographer zoomed in and caught Harvey with his left hand giving a thumbs-up sign.
"You could tell he was really happy to be out there," said Travis d'Arnaud, who caught the session. "And you could tell all the fans were really excited to see him out there."
The sources added that the Mets have narrowed the choices to Colon and one other pitcher, and that it's too early to decide which will get the assignment.
If it ends up being Colon, he would become -- at 41 years, 317 days old -- the oldest Opening Day starter in the majors since Jamie Moyer (43 years, 136 days) and Randy Johnson (42 years, 205 days) in 2006. He also would become the oldest Mets Opening Day starter ever, surpassing Tom Glavine in 2007 (41 years, 7 days).
Colon went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA a season ago. He logged 200 innings for the first time since winning the AL Cy Young in 2005.
Colon has made six career Opening Day starts -- the most recent in 2006 with the Angels.
The Nats have not announced their Opening Day starter, but it may very well be debuting Max Scherzer.
FIRST PITCH: Matt Harvey is scheduled to face batters on Friday at Mets camp. However, like Thursday’s batting-practice sessions during the first full-squad workout, the hitters will be tracking balls and not swinging. So it really is a glorified session throwing off a mound, with position players happening to be standing in the batter’s box.
Unfortunately, the forecast is for consistent rain in Port St. Lucie on Friday morning.
Friday’s news reports:
• Harvey’s first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery will take place next Friday. He is due to face the Detroit Tigers in a Grapefruit League game at Tradition Field, which SNY will televise. Noah Syndergaard will pitch after him that day. Dillon Gee will throw the first Mets pitch of spring training. He is due to start two days earlier, at ESPN Wide World of Sports against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Check the full rotation schedule for the opening week of games here. Read more in Newsday.
• Harvey will be the subject of an E:60 special on his comeback from Tommy John surgery, which is expected to be televised April 4. Watch the moving trailer here.
• SportsCenter’s bus tour of MLB camps stopped by Port St. Lucie on Thursday, with Karl Ravech and Curt Schilling on board. Watch a video interview produced by the SportsCenter crew with David Wright here. Also, Schilling looks at what went wrong with Wright in 2014 here, what the Mets can expect from Harvey here, the player to watch here, and the biggest keys to the season here.
• Jeff Passan at Yahoo chats with Harvey.
• Lucas Duda will not be permitted to swing for at least another week because of a strained intercostal muscle on his left side, Terry Collins said Thursday. Read more in the Post and Daily News and at NJ.com and MLB.com.
• Bobby Parnell faced batters for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on Thursday.
• Newly installed commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated he has no problem with the Mets’ finances. "I'm confident the Mets' finances are in acceptable condition, and that they have available to them the resources to field a very competitive club,” Manfred told Steven Marcus in Newsday.
As for Fred Wilpon being named chair of MLB’s finance committee, Manfred told the newspaper: "I think it's important to understand the role of the finance committee. It reviews very senior-level compensation and internal financial matters. Fred is a long-experienced businessman very capable of handling those matters, and this committee has nothing to do with any investment made by or on behalf of baseball. So I don't see the issues.''
• Buster Posey topped Wright in the finals of MLB’s “Face of MLB contest.”
• Wright tells Matt Ehalt in the Record the Mets have expended enough hot air hyping the team. "It’s one of those things where -- I’ve been guilty of this, too -- where you get confident in this group of guys and you’re asked a question and you answer it honestly, and we’ve kind of talked a big game this offseason," Wright told Ehalt."It’s now a matter of shutting up and going out there and playing. We’ve already done a pretty good job of, I think, publically expressing what we expect from ourselves this year, but it’s enough of the talk. Now it’s a matter of going out there and preparing for opening day." Read more in the Daily News.
• Collins said Thursday’s speech before the first full-squad workout was not “rah, rah.”
“I think he got his message across,” Michael Cuddyer told columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post. “I think everybody heard it. Short, sweet, to the point.” Read more in the Times, Post and at NJ.com.
• Johan Santana's comeback bid continues. He signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. Santana, 35, has not appeared in a major league game since Aug. 17, 2012 as a Met.
• Marc Carig in Newsday profiles Steven Matz, the left-hander from Long Island whose early professional career was stalled by a length rehab from Tommy John surgery. One scout compared Matz to the Rays’ Matt Moore. Another told Carig he resembles the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs.
• Neil Best in Newsday has a Q&A with the SNY team, while Seth Everett on his blog chats with SNY field reporter Steve Gelbs.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal addresses how overworking in spring training can lead to injuries, and what the Mets will do to try to limit workloads.
• Sean Ratliff, the former Mets outfield prospect whose career was derailed by getting his in the eye with a baseball, is back with the organization as the hitting coach at Kingsport.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear takes a deep dive into a vintage Shea Stadium Old-Timers’ Day. … Mets Report asserts the club does not want Murphy back.
BIRTHDAYS: Pete Smith turns 49. ... Anthony Seratelli, in Japan this season after playing a year ago with Las Vegas, is 32.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: How many wins will the Mets produce in 2015?
He may not be the Face of MLB any longer, but David Wright is all smiles Thursday: pic.twitter.com/deu2rYHVPi— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) February 26, 2015
The Blue Jays announced the deal Thursday and invited him to big league spring training.
Santana turns 36 in March. He last pitched in the majors in 2012 with the New York Mets and has undergone two operations on his left shoulder in recent years.
Santana was in Baltimore's minor league system last year and tore his left Achilles tendon in June. He's made just one appearance since then, retiring six straight batters in January in the Venezuelan Winter League.
The four-time All-Star won AL Cy Young Awards with Minnesota in 2004 and 2006. He pitched the only no-hitter in Mets' history and is 139-78 lifetime with a 3.20 ERA.