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Mets manager Luis Rojas: 'We expect to be a contender'

On Tuesday, new Mets manager Luis Rojas spoke about what to expect from his first spring training as Mets manager.  (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — With a calm confidence that his players describe as his norm, manager Luis Rojas did not equivocate Tuesday in his first daily news conference of spring training: The 2020 Mets should be a playoff team.

“We expect to be a contender,” Rojas said. “We feel that we're built to win.”

Aside from that proclamation — which came with the usual aside that, yes, the National League East is perhaps the toughest division in baseball and the Mets have their work cut out for them — Rojas steered clear of headline-grabbing revelations.

He committed only to Jacob deGrom, who will “probably” be the Opening Day starter, being in the rotation, which aligned with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s vagueness on the topic. The Mets have five guys for the other four spots: Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

“We have six starters, guys that have a recent history of being starters and good starters at the major-league level,” Rojas said. “Right now, we're not defining the roles. Jake, I mean it probably won't be a surprise that Jake is probably on Opening Day. But we're not defining roles yet of [Nos. 2-6 starters]. We're not there yet. We're going to sit back and have fun watching these guys pitch in spring training.”

Rojas said the Mets don’t have a timeline on when leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes (broken right ankle) will be ready for game action, but he will share the timeline when one exists. He agreed that his history in the Mets organization — which he joined ahead of the 2006 season — will assist in his late transition to manager, a role he was formally assigned Jan. 23. And he repeatedly thanked his coaching staff, which he had no hand in building aside from helping pick Brian Schneider as his replacement as quality control coach, for its assistance in preparing him for spring training on late notice, given that unusually timed promotion.

“They're such a great coaching staff,” Rojas said.

Rojas said he feels he is at no disadvantage having been through the odd offseason he did. Michael Conforto, among the players Rojas managed in the minors, said his hiring is “a game-changer” for the Mets.

“Just knowing him as a person, knowing what he feels is important in baseball, what his messages have been through the minor leagues,” Conforto said. “He’s always been a team-first guy, fundamental guy, to play the game hard the right way. We talked about how we all respect him, we all have respected him, we all love him as a coach. So I’m really excited for him.

“He came up with us, so there’s that respect we have for him. He grinded it out with us in the minor leagues and now he’s here with us, so it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Conforto shared Rojas’ feelings regarding October baseball.

“It’s a confident group. We feel very, very good about where we’re at as a team,” Conforto said. “We’ve always had the pitching. We need to tighten up the stuff, the baserunning, the defense and hit a little bit better situationally. But as far as how we feel as players, we feel like a team that can be competitive and can be playing baseball in October.”

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