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Taijuan Walker is sharp about Mets' franchise history

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Taijuan Walker winds up

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Taijuan Walker winds up during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When Taijuan Walker decided last week to sign with the Mets, he did so with a keen awareness of the organization’s history — two franchise icons in particular.

Friday night, hours after he agreed to a two-year contract, he uncorked a special bottle of wine he had been saving: GTS, from the Napa Valley vineyard started by the late Tom Seaver.

"I’m a huge wine guy," Walker, who had a bottle of the 2018 vintage, said Tuesday in his first interview as a member of the Mets. "The deal wasn’t official yet, but it was heading toward that way. I just thought it was fitting that night to open up a good bottle of wine. What greater thing to do than open up a bottle of Tom Seaver’s wine? Really, really good wine, by the way. I think it was just a special night."

In the days that followed, as he mulled his uniform number options, he considered No. 00, which he wore last year with the Blue Jays.

But, well, another team legend already had it.

"Of course, Mr. Met is 00," Walker said.

He settled for No. 99, which he used with the Diamondbacks (2017-19) and Mariners (2020) but had to ditch with Toronto because it belonged to Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Walker is the second person in Mets history to wear No. 99, after Turk Wendell (1997-2001).

PCA-plus

Pete Crow-Armstrong, the Mets’ first-round draft pick last year, made multiple sliding grabs during an outfielders’ drill focusing on low line drives/shoestring catches. Most of the others didn't make the same catches.

"His speed is certainly something that pops out," Michael Conforto said. "He seems really down to earth, kind of mature above his years."

Extra bases

An hour before the Mets’ formal workout began, Francisco Lindor already had sweated through a shirt, having taken grounders with J.D. Davis and hit in the batting cage. During and after the infield work, Lindor, a two-time Gold Glove shortstop, offered encouragement and instruction to Davis, who isn’t nearly as strong defensively . . . Luis Rojas on Jacob deGrom’s first live batting practice session of camp, against Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Jonathan Villar on Tuesday: "It’s getting ridiculous. Showing up today, throwing 99 [mph]. Just easy, having fun out there. It was like he was in midseason form." . . . Conforto on the Mets’ black jerseys: "I’m on board. I like those uniforms. I think we’d look pretty good out there. … We’ll see if they pop up."

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