PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Sandy Alderson walked briskly through the clubhouse, his head down, his mind surely occupied by something else before he was stopped. With the humdrum of spring training comes minor dings and dents, and now the general manager of the Mets was being asked about one of these physical maladies.
“My job is not to be concerned about injuries,” Alderson said. “It’s to plan for their eventuality, or anticipate their eventuality, and then have a plan in place to address the injury.”
It doesn’t make for a snappy T-shirt slogan, or for an inspirational placard to be displayed above the tunnel leading to the field. It isn’t exactly the stuff of “play like a champion today.” But for these Mets, it may be enough to simply say “play today.”
Alderson’s words about injuries aren’t just a mission statement but an origin story for a team that brings great expectations into a new season. Injuries shaped the Mets a season ago, forcing Alderson to add new pieces and plug leaks.
What remains from that effort is a roster that the Mets hope is strong enough to withstand the rigor of a marathon, deep enough to weather the inevitability of bodies breaking down under the weight of it all.
“The talent is here,” said Jose Reyes, one of the Band-Aids brought in last season. “We just need to stay healthy.”
Every team in baseball faces the wrath of injuries, though few teams are at their mercy more than the Mets. With them, a season of expectations could fizzle. Without them, the Mets possess enough firepower on the mound and at the plate to win a world championship.
But the reality of their injury situation likely will fall somewhere in between, meaning the Mets’ fate will be tied largely to how well they have prepared.
All over the diamond, there are potential fissures.
Staff ace Noah Syndergaard never went on the disabled list last year, though he did endure a scare with his elbow. The rest of the rotation had surgery of some form. And at least one member, Matt Harvey, is still feeling the immediate after-effects.
In the field, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda struggled with back injuries, wiping out the right side of the Mets’ infield. A knee issue forced shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to essentially play a full season on one leg.
At times, leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes was forced to do the same.
David Wright’s neck surgery spurred the Mets to bring in Reyes as a replacement at third base. Then Reyes himself missed a chunk of the season.
The Mets traded for Jay Bruce to help resuscitate a battered lineup, watched him falter and attempted to trade him away in the offseason. He remains the starting rightfielder.
Despite it all, the Mets won 27 of their final 40 games. They reached the playoffs for the second straight year for only the second time in franchise history.
“The character on this team is second to none,” manager Terry Collins said. “They should come in here understanding that they can challenge, they can challenge anybody.”
Mentally, the Mets are convinced that there are lessons that still apply one year later.
“Don’t panic,” Walker said. “There were a lot of times last year where we could have as a group went to a bad place, and we didn’t do that.”
But the most important takeaway has been in preparation.
When Wright went down in camp, Reyes moved seamlessly into his spot.
The bench includes Wilmer Flores, who can play all four spots in the infield. Reyes has done work in the outfield, Bruce at first base.
Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo proved late last season that the Mets’ pitching depth is real.
Michael Conforto is first in line in case of an opening in the outfield. Top prospect Amed Rosario appears destined for stardom at shortstop.
The Mets’ best-case scenario, of course, is simply keeping their regulars on the field. If they play, they could be champions.
But the Mets have planned for the alternative.
“We have the ability to absorb some of those blows that we have experienced in the past and know will occur sometime along the way this season,” Alderson said. “But I think it’s like running a marathon. If you’ve run one, it’s easier to run the second one.”
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