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5 keys for the Mets as spring training looms

Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets

Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets strikes out to end the seventh inning against the New York Yankees with bases loaded at Citi Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in the Queens, New York. Credit: Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets strikes out to end the seventh inning against the New York Yankees with bases loaded at Citi Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in the Queens, New York.

What do the Mets look like under Mickey Callaway and company?

After 1,134 games under Terry Collins, the Mets’ front office has entrusted this team’s future to Callaway, a first-time manager who built his reputation on the arms of the pitchers he’s helped succeed. Unsurprisingly, the Indians’ former pitching coach already has implemented some changes — bringing in pitching coach Dave Eiland to help guide a talented rotation that has seemingly lost its way (and its durability), changing his pitchers’ offseason training regimens, and perhaps implementing some unconventional bullpen management. The question is how this group, in many ways similar to last year’s, will take to a vastly different managerial style.

Will this rotation ever be the same?

That’s the big one, isn’t it? Once the most promising rotation in baseball, the Mets’ young pitchers have sustained their fair share of slings and arrows, with every member falling onto the disabled list last year except Jacob deGrom. Everyone is expected to be back and relatively healthy, but it’s clear that the Mets’ brass are hinging much of this season on what these pitchers were able to do once upon a time. Will Noah Syndergaard’s new offseason regimen — less lifting, more stretching — really save him from injury? Can Matt Harvey regain his swagger? Will Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler finally fulfill their early promise? How will deGrom look pitching with short hair? (OK, fine. That one isn’t as pressing, we just didn’t want to leave him out.)

Will Michael Conforto fully recover?

Conforto had the dubious honor of being one of the Mets’ few true bright spots last season, along with suffering one of the team’s most devastating injuries. After essentially ripping his arm out of its socket on a swing, some even wondered if the promising outfielder ever would be the same. Truth is, we won’t know for a while as he isn’t due back from his season-ending surgery until May, but general manager Sandy Alderson said he expects to provide updates on Conforto during spring training. That, along with whatever he is able to do physically in Port St. Lucie should give a clearer indication of whether he’ll be able to regain pre-injury form. Until then, Juan Lagares is trying to earn playing time by working with a “swing doctor” this offseason to become more of an offensive threat.

Will David Wright ever play a major-league game again?

The Todd Frazier signing was a clear indication that the Mets aren’t necessarily banking on their captain to return. The organization is pulling for Wright, who has given everything he has and more to the Mets, but after missing over two years of baseball with injuries to his spine, neck, and shoulder, he underwent another setback (and another surgery) in September. Wright, 35, has yet to begin throwing and swinging after the procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and though no one has ever doubted his resilience, these next few weeks could very well be an indicator of whether he can return.

Who’s on first?

For now, the job belongs to Adrian Gonzalez, but the Mets have a host of backup options: Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores and Dominic Smith. It appeared that one of the reasons the Mets signed Gonzalez — a power hitter in the twilight of his career — was so he could shepherd Smith, who stands to be the first baseman of the Mets’ future. After struggling mightily last year, Smith has shown up to camp about 30 pounds lighter and perhaps with a chip on his shoulder. Gonzalez’s signing means there’s little guarantee Smith makes the Opening Day roster, but a strong spring could certainly change the situation and make things more interesting earlier than expected.

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