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HomeNewsTough decisions await Buck Showalter with five Grapefruit League games remaining

Tough decisions await Buck Showalter with five Grapefruit League games remaining

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PORT STREET. LUCIE — The Mets are in the home stretch of spring training.

There are five Grapefruit League games left on the board, and manager Buck Showalter has scheduled an exhibition next week to prepare the Mets for Opening Day in Miami. The team had its last day off from spring training on Tuesday, getting some much-needed rest.

It’s been a tough few weeks for the Mets, as the club has suffered injuries to key players Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo. There’s some optimism that Nimmo could be healthy by Opening Day, but as of now, it’s still unclear. Left-handed reliever Brooks Raley is the only injured player expected to be ready by March 30.

Injuries aside, there is still a lot to gain in this final week of tune-up.

Many of the Mets’ top players are returning from the World Baseball Classic. Francisco Lindor, Eduardo Escobar and Omar Narvaez are back in the camp. Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil are expected to return this week, heading north from Miami after the championship game against Japan concludes Tuesday night. The Mets have two games on the other side of the state on Thursday and Friday, so most of the regulars will hang back and work out in the back fields or play minor league games, but some will take on the Atlanta Braves. and the Tampa Bay Rays. in North Port and St. Petersburg.

Other than health, the two biggest questions that still need to be answered over the next week are about the closer’s role and third base.

With Diaz likely out for the season, the Mets have to find a replacement. In building the bullpen over the winter, general manager Billy Eppler prioritized pitchers with high-leverage inning experience. The thinking behind that was that the ninth inning isn’t always the most important. Save situations happen in other innings, but it’s less about the specific situation and more about having the best reliever facing the toughest part of the opposing team’s lineup.

We saw this in the postseason in Game 2 of the Mets’ wild card win over the San Diego Padres. Showalter led Díaz into the seventh inning of a 3-2 game. Showalter had previously used Diaz in the eighth inning to face the toughest part of the lineup, but in this particular situation, the manager didn’t want anyone else to face Juan Soto and he didn’t want the closer to come in the middle of an inning. .

Smith and right-hander Adam Ottavino are the only highly experienced pitchers on last season’s team, but the club may want to keep Smith in the setup role he thrived in last season.

The Mets only have one lefty that fits that description in Raley, so they may want to reserve him for innings that feature multiple left-handed hitters. The club doesn’t see a lefty as a required asset as long as righties get hitters from both sides of the plate in equal proportions.

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That leaves right-hander David Robertson, the former Yankees closer who once had to step into Mariano Rivera’s shadow after the Hall of Famer retired.

Regardless of who gets the ninth inning or the winning inning, Eppler’s decision to stack relievers with the type of compensation is already proving beneficial. However, the Mets would still prefer the best closer in baseball to take the ball with the game on the line.

The Mets could opt to sign a free agent or make a trade, though early-season trades for elite players are extremely rare and would require a large amount of prospective capital.

Brett Baty has held his own at third base. Hitting .342 with a .915 OPS, one double, one home run, seven runs scored, seven walks and two stolen bases has forced the Mets to make a difficult decision. If they do get him on the Opening Day roster, what kind of ripple effect will that have?

They could DH Escobar, but that would probably mean cutting Darin Ruf. The club won’t promote a top prospect just to DH him and have him ignore his defensive position.

Meanwhile, back in Queens, the Mets are preparing to unveil the new giant scoreboard at Citi Field. Also new for next season is a 100-seat membership speakeasy called the Cadillac Club at Payson’s. An exclusive club that will be limited to just 20-30 members will be located near the right field warning track and will be named after the club’s first owner, Joan Whitney Payson.

Things are starting to take shape, indicating that the regular season is right around the corner.

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