Underway in the Grapefruit League
The MLB Spring Training schedule is underway in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. In their 2017 Grapefruit League debut, the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, on Friday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. The Mets were powered by OF Michael Conforto and prospect SS/INF Gavin Cecchini, who each hit solo home runs off Red Sox pitching.
The Mets' first three pitchers -- SP/RHP Seth Lugo, RHP Marcos Molina, and RHP Rafael Montero -- held the Red Sox scoreless and hitless over the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Boston 1B/DH Hanley Ramirez broke the hitless stretch for the Red Sox by hammering a double into right center field off the Mets' RHP Josh Edgin; Ramirez was eventually driven in on a two-run home run from non-roster invitee, OF Brian Bogusevic. Mets pitching closed out the Red Sox over the final two innings to secure their first win of the Spring campaign.
On Saturday, the Mets will hold their spring home opener at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, FL, when they host the Washington Nationals at 1 pm. OF Yoenis Cespedes, OF Curtis Granderson, and potentially Captain/3B David Wright, will make their first spring appearances against the defending NL East champion Nationals. RP/LHP Sean Gilmartin will start for New York while LHP Gio Gonzalez will take the mound for Washington. The Mets will host the Tigers in Port St. Lucie on Sunday, 26 February, with the Houston Astros traveling out to Port St. Lucie on Monday, 27 February; all games will start at 1:10 pm Eastern.
It's a good start to the spring for Michael Conforto, who will battle for playing time in a crowded outfield with Cespedes in left, Curtis Granderson likely to start in center, and Jay Bruce in right. Conforto, 23, appeared in 109 games for New York in 2016, hitting 12 HRs and 42 RBIs, with a .220/.310 OBP/.414 SLG slash line.
New York's young aces. The Mets young starters are being carefully managed to start the spring. With a new approach, the Mets did not allow their young starters -- Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler -- to throw to the bases during the first week of pitching field practice, in an effort to save wear and tear on their arms. They also provided the pitchers an extra day of rest between bullpen sessions. The first Mets' starter to make his debut will be Noah Syndergaard next Friday, 3 March, in Port St. Lucie against the Astros. Wheeler is not expected to see game action prior to 9 March against the Tigers. Mets' pitching coach Dan Warthen stated that the goal for the starters is to attain a pitch count of 90 by the end of the spring season, over a span of 5-6 starts; they'll start at a baseline of 30 pitches, with a goal of adding 15 more pitches in each subsequent start. The Mets have discussed going to a 6-man rotation at times during the regular season to lessen the wear and tear, leveraging Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to fill in when possible.
Prospect to watch in camp: OF Dominic Smith, 1B. Smith is husky, 6-0, 250 lbs., with a strong set of all around tools. He is a line drive hitter with a gap-to-gap approach, but is also able to turn on a fastball and pull it for a home run. At 21, Smith is good athlete, but without much foot speed. At Class AA Binghamton in '16, Smith hit .302 with a .824 OBP and 91 RBIs. Look for him to move out to AAA Las Vegas to the start the season, and possibly reach New York in the fall.