PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Need evidence that 2009 finally is history? Here's what happened Thursday during the Mets' first full-squad workout:
Jose Reyes ran the bases in every possible scenario, sprinting from first to third, scoring on a sacrifice fly, hustling to second on a pretend double. "It was better than I expected," he said.
Johan Santana pitched a pain-free bullpen session and later joked that he got to pitch only two innings. "I gave up a single," Santana said. "But I struck everybody else out."
Newcomer Jason Bay smashed line drives into the stiff wind that knocked down fly balls at Tradition Field. And David Wright, with the gusts behind him over on the Citi Field replica, cleared the high leftfield fence with ease.
"At this point, who cares what happened last year?" Jeff Francoeur said. " . . . It's a new season. There's going to be eight teams to go to the playoffs. We're hoping we're one of those teams. You've seen so many teams get the wild card and go to the World Series, too. So my whole thing is just get there, play in October - besides, the last three games are against the Nationals."
After two seasons of collapsing in the season's closing weekend, both times against Florida, the Mets were too far gone last year to care that late. In yesterday's two-part opening address, delivered by Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya, the point was to remember the agony and embarrassment of last year, but only long enough to use it as a springboard into this season.
"It was more about everybody as a whole - not so much individual guys and getting caught up in that," Bay said. "You look around and we have a ton of talent, there's no question. But it was proved last year and years before with this team and other ones, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. Forget about how good people are and win ballgames. And that's how you have fun."
Despite a cold snap that dropped the temperature to 48 degrees, the bundled-up players seemed to be enjoying themselves. Only three wore short-sleeved jerseys: Wright, Francoeur and minor-league pitcher Eric Niesen. "Setting the tone," Wright said.
Another Met who is expected to do just that is Santana, and seeing him breeze through his first intense bullpen session was a figurative shot in the arm. Principal owner Fred Wilpon watched from behind the mound. COO Jeff Wilpon looked on from a golf cart. Afterward, Santana said he is on schedule to make his Grapefruit League debut between March 9-12, without any of the drama that surrounded his knee and elbow issues last year.
"We're here for a reason, and that's to win a championship," Santana said. "That's the reason why they brought me here three years ago. That's what we're trying to do and trying to accomplish here. Unfortunately, last year was a bad year for us, but we learned from those things."
Some of those lessons were evident Thursday. Manuel's 80-pitch drill from last year was cut in half to 40, slightly downplaying the opposite-field mantra that might have adversely affected the team's power in 2009. There also is a greater emphasis on alert baserunning and defense, two fundamentals the Mets sorely lacked.
"It seems like we have a good attitude in camp," Wright said. "It feels like this group of guys has been around for a lot longer than just today. As far as baseball-wise, I think that we made some adjustments to the work we did in spring training last year for the better.
"I know this is just the first day, but I like the direction spring training is heading in."