Mets manager Buck Showalter watches his team during spring training...

Mets manager Buck Showalter watches his team during spring training on Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A message for anybody trying to make the Mets’ roster out of spring training: Give the upcoming talent show your best shot.

For a team-bonding activity, manager Buck Showalter at some point in the next couple of weeks is having the Mets put on a talent show for each other, with everybody invited to get up in front of the group and perform an act of his choice.

Showalter’s excitement is such that he has mentioned it during most of his daily media briefings. Players’ participation is optional . . . but there is precedent for it being potentially life-changing.

Showalter has referenced multiple players having such an impressive showing in past iterations that it became a reason they won a job for Opening Day. One of them: T.J. McFarland, a lefthanded reliever in Mets camp on a minor-league contract. He broke into the majors as a Rule 5 pick for Showalter’s Orioles in 2013 after his talent-show effort moved him to the right side of the roster bubble.

“I got made fun of a lot for my Chicago accent — it’s pretty strong — so I embraced that,” McFarland said, explaining that he did his version of Bill Swerski’s Superfans, a recurring “Saturday Night Live” skit about Chicago sports fans. “It’s a really, really strong Chicago accent.”

Showalter laughed at the memory a decade later.

“I came into camp on the outside looking in, Rule 5, and it made an impression,” McFarland said. “I think he appreciated the fact that one, I went up there and actually was vulnerable and exposed myself. And that I actually did well. The fact that this young kid came in, not knowing anybody, first big-league camp ever, here he is doing some stupid-[expletive] skit up on stage. So I think he appreciated it.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen spoke to reporters at spring training about spending, payroll and his daily involvement with the team. NewsdayTV's Tim Healey reports. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Showalter said: “We watched him do his thing up there, and the guts it took and the confidence level and whatever. Good enough for me, he’s on the club.”

Showalter wanted to do a talent show last spring training, his first with the Mets, but camp was shortened enough by the lockout that they didn’t have time. So he is making good on his promise this year, and a sign-up sheet already has been posted in a back room at Clover Park.

McFarland, 33, a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors, said he plans to come up with some impersonation to perform. But more important, he is trying to impress Mets decision-makers with his pitching ability during the next month-plus.

Coming off a poor year with the Cardinals, who designated him and his 6.61 ERA for assignment in August, McFarland said he “revamped” his slider and “tightened up” his sinker, plus added a cutter. His hope is those pitches will help him regain top form as a ground-ball specialist.

“You got the sinker that’s moving 20 inches one way, slider is 20 inches the other way,” he said, “then you got the cutter that’s kind of right in between the two.”

Pitching plans

Denyi Reyes, a non-roster righthander, will start the Mets’ first exhibition game Saturday afternoon against the Astros in West Palm Beach. Jose Butto will pitch against the Marlins on Saturday night at Clover Park. Showalter wasn’t thrilled to have two games on Day One.

Max Scherzer will make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday against the Nationals. Then it’ll be David Peterson on Monday (at the Cardinals) and Jose Quintana on Tuesday (versus the Astros).

Extra bases

During his inning of live batting practice, Scherzer, needing to face one more batter, called Francisco Lindor out of the dugout for a showdown. Lindor sent a ground ball to first base . . . Justin Verlander turned 40 on Monday.


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