PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Nobody could remember for sure the last time it happened.
Matt Harvey guessed it was about a year ago, in spring training. Zack Wheeler thinks it might have been sometime early last season. Noah Syndergaard couldn’t be certain that it had ever happened at all, at least when healthy.
When was the last time the Mets’ young guns assembled at the same time, at the same place?
“Altchek’s office, I think,” manager Terry Collins joked, a reference to the team doctor who hasn’t been hurting for business, David Altchek.
They gathered here on Sunday, formerly the collective future of the Mets, currently its fragile present, sharing the same space, sharing the same burden, sharing the same desire to finally demonstrate all that they can do together.
“Walking in for the first time and seeing the five of us have lockers lined up like that, it’s exciting,” Harvey said Monday. “It’s motivation to stay healthy and kind of go through, like I said probably 100 times in this interview, the process of spring training.”
Over time, the Mets’ stable of power arms has taken on a mythical quality. To this point, they have been merely an intriguing idea, injuries and circumstance separating a grand vision from reality. But as another new season dawns, the Mets’ chances to win a World Series are tied to the health of Harvey, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom.
Collins expects that Wheeler will compete for a spot in the rotation. A rocky rehab from Tommy John surgery has sidelined him for two years. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman proved to be capable fill-ins last season. They will get a shot, too.
“Right now, because he hasn’t pitched in so long, it’s an open competition,” Collins said. “It’s not just that Zack hasn’t pitched in so long, but it’s pretty fresh in my mind what I saw Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo do. So I think they need to be in that mix.”
Wheeler will face innings limits that could send him to the bullpen. But he and the Mets agree: He still is viewed as a starter.
And in that way, the Mets’ position hasn’t changed. The franchise again has invested its hopes in starting pitching.
In his first news conference of spring training, Collins established parameters geared toward keeping their arms healthy. The Mets and pitching coach Dan Warthen are instituting stricter throwing limits in the earliest stages of camp, when players may be more vulnerable to injuries.
“When you’re talking about the injuries that occur to pitchers, a lot of it has to do with the fact that perhaps we throw too much too early,” Collins said. “We’re not going to do that this year. You’ll see tomorrow: There will be no throwing during drills.”
By Collins’ calculations, pitchers will save about 100 throws per day early in camp. They will play catch near the end of the day rather than earlier to cut down on workload. In addition, Collins said pitchers will get extra rest between throwing sessions off the mound.
The Mets will ramp up as the regular season draws near. But there will be no rush. The goal is for a gradual buildup.
Harvey is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and deGrom had a nerve issue in his right elbow corrected with an operation. Matz had a bone spur removed from his left elbow and Wheeler is nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery.
All four said they had typical offseasons, their preparations unhindered by their maladies. All said they are healthy. Now the Mets must keep it that way.
“With what happened last year, they’re more willing to buy into some ideas of how to stay healthy this year as opposed to last year,” Collins said. “When you’re young and strong, you think you’re invincible. We found out they’re not.”