PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Normalcy is returning here soon, to be followed closely by anticipation.
After Tuesday’s off day, just nine spring training games remain on the schedule, including a split-squad game. Opening Day looms less than two weeks away. By week’s end, the last of the players away for the World Baseball Classic will be back in camp.
That means the time has come for the Mets to begin fully shaping the team that they will bring north to start the season.
“Starting Wednesday,” manager Terry Collins said, “it’s crunch time.”
For the Mets, many of the decisions have already been made, as is typical for teams that bring expectations into the season. Noah Syndergaard heads up a scary good starting rotation and the lineup will be built around Yoenis Cespedes.
“He’s got a chance to make the club,” Collins joked recently. “We might hit him third, too.”
But not all parts of the roster are as straightforward, and that includes a starting rotation that may be subject to a little intrigue in camp’s closing days. With the end of spring training drawing near, the Mets have more healthy arms than they have spots, though there could be a few complications.
Matt Harvey’s fastball has not come back since surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a major procedure that often requires 10 months for a full recovery. Harvey underwent the procedure in July, and the Mets could entertain leaving him in extended spring training.
When asked if he’s on track to face big-league hitters once the season starts, Harvey did not hesitate. “Yeah,” he said. “Of course.”
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler has shown signs of finally getting past the setbacks that have marred his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday in an outing that will be watched closely by team officials. Another sign of good health could vault him into further consideration for the Opening Day roster.
No decisions have been made for the back end of the rotation, one that is so strong that Seth Lugo’s strong WBC for Puerto Rico might not be enough to push out Robert Gsellman for the fifth spot in the rotation.
The picture in the bullpen looks more clear. Even with closer Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended for the beginning of the season, Addison Reed, Fernando Salas, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, and Lugo appear to be locks for the bullpen. Lefty Josh Smoker is essentially in that group as well, leaving only one spot wide open.
The Mets have a full 40-man roster. But Familia’s suspension will open a spot, which could be good news for non-roster invitee Paul Sewald, who has a 1.74 ERA in eight spring games. Submariner Ben Rowen remains in camp with a 1.93 ERA, and some within the organization are intrigued by the different look he would provide.
Josh Edgin is also in the mix, though he has some hurdles to clear. The lefty’s fastball hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery two years ago. He has a 4.32 ERA in the spring, though he’s given up only one run in his last six appearances.
Edgin is out of options. If he doesn’t make the team, he would have to go on waivers, where there is a chance he is claimed.
As camp winds down, T.J. Rivera appears to have the inside track on a bench spot, leaving one spot up for grabs. Ty Kelly is not on the roster, but his versatility and switch-hitting ability make him a strong option. Matt Reynolds is hitting just .094 in Grapefruit League play.
Meanwhile, a pair of former first-rounders appear ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. Brandon Nimmo still has a shot of sneaking onto the roster, but his odds won’t be helped by a nagging hamstring issue.
Michael Conforto is hitting .356./.370/.622 in 16 games. But even before the camp, the Mets have made it known that Conforto playing every day rather than having him on the bench is the priority.
Barring an injury as Opening Day nears, that can only happen in the minor leagues.
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