PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Sandy Alderson roamed the grounds of the Mets’ spring-training complex at Tradition Field on Wednesday morning, a pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat providing a shield against the sun.
He has made this journey six times, arriving here for the start of spring training. Never has he been more optimistic.
“I really haven’t been this upbeat about a team in a long time and I think that’s exciting — exciting for us, exciting for the players, and I think the fans as well,” he said.
As he addressed reporters on the official report date for pitchers and catchers, the Mets general manager touched on topics ranging from the team on the field to the cancer diagnosis he received only days after the Mets clinched the NL East.
The Mets’ run to the World Series offered catharsis not only to the team’s long-suffering fans but to Alderson himself. He called the team’s success a welcome “distraction” from battling cancer.
“It was a little surreal, you know?” said Alderson, who will return to New York at some points during the spring to receive treatment. “Having not been to the World Series in 25 years, having never been diagnosed with cancer. It was a little bit odd. But the great thing about the postseason was, it was a distraction at that time, and distractions are always nice.”
Alderson said doctors have offered a positive long-term prognosis and that side effects from treatment have been minimal. He continues to work full time on a team that is widely expected to contend for its first title since 1986.
“I feel great,” Alderson said. “I’m ready to go.”
Meanwhile, Alderson touched on several topics facing the Mets as workouts begin on Friday:
—— While the Mets could use another righthanded option in the bullpen, Alderson maintained that he’s likely finished handing out long-term contracts. Instead, the Mets may survey the market closer to the end of camp. “At this point, we’re more likely to see what happens over the course of spring training,” he said.
—— The Mets enter camp with few position battles, a testament to the depth of the roster. “We may not have a lot of competition for jobs, but I think we have competition for playing time,” Alderson said. “I think that’s just as important.”
—— Taking measures to keep the Mets’ young arms healthy will once again emerge as a key point. The Mets’ starters likely won’t make any Grapefruit League appearances until about a week into the schedule, part of an effort to lessen the physical load on them entering the season. But Alderson said he expects that the pitchers will have enough time to build up their pitch counts by Opening Day.
—— Precautions will also be taken to manage David Wright, who enters his first full season since being diagnosed with the back condition spinal stenosis. “We’re going to have to be mindful of his physical situation and anticipate rather than react to that condition,” said Alderson, who hopes Wright can play in 130 games. “So, it’s hard to say. But certainly we’re going to go way beyond just monitoring his health. I think we have to be proactive.”
—— In the past, Alderson has established 90 wins as a goal entering the season. This year, despite heightened expectations, Alderson refused to offer a firm number. He said he’d be content with enough wins to once again capture the division.
“I actually brought a copy of that headline with me to remind myself of the progression that we’ve experienced over the last two years,” Alderson said. “We want to win enough games to win the division. Is that 90? Is that 92? 94? I don’t know what the number is.”