Mets trying to end 5-year skid
NEW YORK -- Five straight losing seasons. That’s what the New York Mets have produced since moving into Citi Field.
David Wright, for one, is tired of it.
"We need to start going out there showing results," the star third baseman said. "The last couple years we’ve kind of been hampered by some contracts and payroll issues. It seems like that’s behind us. At the same time, we’ve got those prospects knocking at the door. I think we’re in a better place now than we have been the past few years and quite frankly, I think we have a better team."
Translation: No more waiting for next year. No more selling the future. No more excuses.
It’s time to take a step forward -- and that means winning.
General manager Sandy Alderson seems to think so, too. After he signed free agents Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young this offseason, a report emerged that Alderson told staffers he thinks the Mets can win 90 games (with a payroll under $90 million).
Even hard-core fans found that overly optimistic, especially with ace Matt Harvey expected to miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery. New York posted its second consecutive 74-88 record last year -- and that was with Harvey on the mound most of the way.
But there is reason for hope, particularly in Triple-A. Touted young pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero could soon join a promising rotation that includes Colon, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese.
"He’s got all the traits of the good ones," manager Terry Collins said about Syndergaard. "He’s on track to be special."
The offense could be better with the addition of Granderson, who got a $60 million, four-year deal after an injury-plagued season for the Yankees across town. His left-handed power bat should provide some much-needed protection for Wright.
The multitalented Young, on a one-year contract following a down season in Oakland, appears highly motivated to regain his All-Star form.
"It’s been interesting to watch the whole team," Granderson said early in spring training. "There’s power here. Chris Young has been amazing."
The lineup remains flawed and prone to strikeouts, though the roster has improved. Perhaps not enough to push Washington and Atlanta in the NL East just yet, but the Mets expect to take significant strides this season as they anticipate Harvey’s return in 2015.
"When I re-signed here, I knew it wasn’t an overnight fix. I think I like that part of the challenge of it," Wright said. "I want to be part of the reason why we get this thing turned around and headed in the right direction and ultimately start winning again. I think we have that ability."
Here are five things to watch for from the Mets in 2014:
FOR STARTERS: Niese originally was slotted to start his second straight season opener, but was slowed by nagging injuries in what he called "the spring training from hell." Gee gets the assignment instead, and Niese hopes to pitch April 6. The left-hander missed more than six weeks with a partially torn rotator cuff last season, so durability is becoming a concern.
IN AND OUT: The additions of Granderson and Young finally give the Mets some proven power and depth in the outfield -- but they also created a bit of a logjam. Defensive whiz Juan Lagares played a sensational center field last year, and speedy left fielder Eric Young Jr. led the NL with 46 steals. Despite a .310 on-base percentage, Young Jr. is the only Mets hitter who profiles as a leadoff man. So how will Collins divvy up the playing time?
SEE YOU AROUND: The Mets agreed to let Harvey rehab in New York with his teammates around while the team is home, rather than in lonely Port St. Lucie, Fla. Highly competitive, Harvey still sounds interested in pitching by the end of the season, though the club will want to be cautious.
IF AT FIRST: When the Mets were unable to upgrade at first base over the winter, it left Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to compete for playing time this spring. Both were sidelined for weeks with leg injuries, though, making the decision more difficult. New York needs at least one of them to provide consistent production. Davis figures to get the first opportunity.
COUNTING ON YOU: It appears light-hitting Ruben Tejada will get another chance at shortstop after the Mets failed to find a suitable replacement. New York also is banking on Travis d’Arnaud, a prized catching prospect who hasn’t hit much yet, and an inexperienced bullpen anchored by closer Bobby Parnell, who is coming off neck surgery.
AP freelance writer Jon Santucci in Port St. Lucie, Fla., contributed to this report.
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