PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — More than a year into Mickey Callaway’s tenure as Mets manager, one player is still looking to make a first on-field impression: T.J. Rivera.
Rivera, an infielder, missed all of last season after September 2017 Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right elbow. Around this time last year, Rivera was hoping for a midseason return to the majors, but a slower-than-anticipated rehab process included a sprain of the same elbow during a minor-league game in July. A season that never really began was over.
“I tried. I tried a little too hard, I think, and maybe rushed my body a little bit,” Rivera said. “It just wasn’t ready. I’m just glad to be ready now and start this spring fresh.”
Rivera is a healthy, normal player again. He was among the first position players to report to camp and is “full go,” Callaway said, for the Mets’ first full-squad workout Monday.
The Mets’ infield looks a lot different — and a lot more crowded — than the version Rivera left behind when he got hurt. Notably, there are mainstays at second base (Robinson Cano) and third base (Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie), which will be Rivera’s primary spots in spring training. He also will get some reps at first, Callaway said.
That versatility could bode well for Rivera, 30, in this new Mets era of versatility — general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has focused on players who can play multiple positions — but he has no guaranteed job. There is a bench spot or two up for grabs, but Rivera has minor-league options remaining, so he might be riding the New York-Syracuse shuttle this year.
“That’s not the goal, but that’s a possibility, absolutely,” said Rivera, who had a .304/.335/.445 slash line in 106 games for the 2016-17 Mets. “I’m just going to come in here and show what I’m capable of. I believe in myself. You can’t really expect others to believe in you. You have to [earn it]. That’s my goal, to come in here and show what I’m capable of.”
A silver lining in Rivera’s injury trouble: Time off the field has meant more time with his daughter, 14-month-old Ava.
“It would have been a lot tougher not having her around,” he said. “I got to spend so much quality time with her this early. That was pretty special.”
Notes & quotes: Ricky Bones, the Mets’ bullpen coach from 2012-18, will be the pitching coach for advanced Class A St. Lucie. He was removed from his major-league post shortly after Van Wagenen’s hiring, with a promise to be reassigned in a player-development role . . . Jeremy Accardo, a former major-league pitcher who has a big fan in Callaway, is the Mets’ new roving minor-league pitching coordinator. That’s a noteworthy promotion from his gig as the Triple-A bullpen coach last year . . . All of the Mets’ position players reported to camp Saturday, the mandatory report date.