PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Just 18 years old and yet to play in a professional game, centerfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong is an enthusiastic participant in major-league spring training — sometimes maybe too enthusiastic.
"There’s a lot of talent there defensive-wise," Mets manager Luis Rojas said. "I’ve been on his field a few times, and I’ve been throwing BP and I turn around and I see him make an outstanding catch. He’s been making diving catches in BP. We have to tell him to take it easy sometimes. But he’s pretty confident out there."
Crow-Armstrong, the Mets’ first-round draft pick last year, said he was "shocked" to learn he had been invited to camp. Because minor-league spring training won’t begin until major-league spring training ends, the Mets brought several far-away prospects who won’t make it to The Show in 2021 for the extra instruction and experience.
"I just hope I make a good impression on people," he said. "The fact that I have no intentions of making a big-league spot this year, I’m just here to try and help out as much as I possibly can."
Take it from backup outfielder Kevin Pillar, who has not played for a winning team since 2016: The expectation that the Mets will be good isn’t just spring-training puffery.
His experience in recent years — bouncing from the Blue Jays to the Giants to the Red Sox to the Rockies — made him value the chance to win, which he highlighted as a big reason he signed with the Mets.
"[The coaches are] not shying away from the fact that this is a very talented group and our expectations are to win," he said. "I’ve been a couple places over the last couple of years where you talk about those things, but you look around the room and you’re like, ‘This is gonna be really tough.’ "
Like everyone else, Pillar, 32, wants to play every day but said he has "made peace with where I’m at in my career."
"I’m just extremely grateful every time I get an opportunity to go out on the field and play," he said. "As you get a little bit older and you get later in your career, you don’t know how much longer you’re going to get a chance to play."
Reliever Sam McWilliams, a 6-7 righthander who received a major-league contract from the Mets in the offseason despite never having pitched in the majors, wowed during a live batting practice session Friday.
Of particular note was his curveball, which he began throwing just last month. It complements his high-90s fastball and other offerings, including a slider and changeup.
"Definitely someone that’s very talented," said Pillar, who faced him. "You can obviously see the talent, you can see the velocity, you can see the stuff. When he was in the strike zone today, it was elite stuff. And it’s good to see the adjustments he made from three days ago and the work that he put in. It was big-league stuff and it was tough to hit."
Added Rojas: "The fastball jumps out of his hand . . . It’s almost like he’s throwing downhill."
McWilliams was a bit wild because of what Rojas said was his front hip opening up, a fixable mechanical issue.
Righthander Harol Gonzalez will start the Mets’ exhibition opener Monday against the Marlins. Righthander Jordan Yamamoto will get the ball for the home opener Tuesday against the Astros.
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.