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Mets roster projection: Who fills out the rotation, bench, bullpen?

Mets manager Luis Rojas at a spring training

Mets manager Luis Rojas at a spring training workout on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — As the Mets enjoyed their second of three days off this spring training — no game, no workout — on Monday, the final camp countdown began. In just two weeks, they’ll head to Washington, where they’ll open the regular season against the Nationals.

Between now and then, the Mets have only a handful of major-league personnel decisions to make. Here is a look at how the Opening Day 26-man roster is shaping up. Players listed in italics are considered non-guarantees.

Starters (8)

C James McCann

1B Pete Alonso

2B Jeff McNeil

3B J.D. Davis

SS Francisco Lindor

LF Dominic Smith

CF Brandon Nimmo

RF Michael Conforto

Let’s get the easy answers out of the way. There are no surprises here, and the only argument you could make about a potential question mark is Davis at third. The Mets looked to upgrade over the offseason but didn’t. Davis’ defense gives the Mets pause, but they want his bat in the lineup regularly, so it could be a situation where he is aggressively subbed out for a better defender.

That better defender: Luis Guillorme, who strengthens his case for regular playing time with every diving stop of a would-be hit (or every 22-pitch walk).

Rotation (5)

RHP Jacob deGrom

RHP Marcus Stroman

RHP Taijuan Walker

LHP David Peterson

RHP Jordan Yamamoto

What had been a fifth-starter competition — Peterson always seemed to have the inside track — now might be a fourth-and-fifth-starter competition. Carlos Carrasco played catch Sunday and said he expects to be ready for Opening Day; manager Luis Rojas was less sure. The Mets stress caution, especially early in the season, so figure they will take it slow with Carrasco, who hasn’t pitched in an exhibition game yet.

That makes room for Peterson and one other. Yamamoto has been solid in spring training: 1.08 ERA (one earned run in 8 1/3 innings) and 0.96 WHIP across three appearances. Those numbers are especially relevant after Rojas mentioned this month that the Mets value exhibition performances when making these decisions.

The other primary option would be Joey Lucchesi, who made his Grapefruit League debut Friday (two scoreless innings). Veteran righthander Jerad Eickhoff, in camp on a minor-league contract, also is a possibility.

The Mets need a fifth starter by April 7, their sixth game of the season.

Bench (5)

C Tomas Nido

IF Luis Guillorme

IF Jonathan Villar

OF Kevin Pillar

OF Albert Almora Jr.

With pitchers slated to bat again this year, the Mets will need a bigger bench for double-switching, pinch hitting, etc. They value versatility, and this bench offers plenty of that.

The loss of righthanded hitter Jose Martinez for at least the first half of their season (left knee surgery) robs the Mets of maybe their best pinch-hitting option. But it also makes room for Almora, who might be their best defensive outfielder (and who can be optioned to the minors).

If the Mets want an offense-minded replacement for Martinez, they don’t have many (or any) options internally. Their remaining 40-man players and non-roster invitees don’t fit that profile. But if they played Guillorme at third regularly, Davis could serve in that role.

Bullpen (8)

RHP Edwin Diaz (closer)

RHP Trevor May

LHP Aaron Loup

RHP Miguel Castro

RHP Dellin Betances

RHP Jeurys Familia

RHP Robert Gsellman

RHP Arodys Vizcaino

With no Seth Lugo for the first month-plus as he recovers from February surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow, the Mets have wiggle room at the bottom of their bullpen depth chart. Vizcaino, who has barely pitched in recent years because of injuries, reached 97 mph in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday and impressed team officials before that.

Drew Smith and Sam McWilliams, who both can be sent to the minors, are options. So is Stephen Tarpley, if the Mets want a second lefty alongside Loup. Non-roster candidates include righthander Tommy Hunter and lefthanders Mike Montgomery and Jerry Blevins.

One possibility worth mentioning, particularly because it would create an extra spot for one of the above names: The Mets can send Gsellman to the minors. He had a 4.91 ERA the past three seasons, appearing largely as a reliever..

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