01/29/2003 8:21 pm ET
Mets Spring Training rundown
The inside edge on New York as 2003 gets underway
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
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Thomas J. White Stadium
75-86, fifth in NL East
2002 Hitting leaders
RBIs: Piazza, 98
(min. 200 at-bats):
Avg.: Edgardo Alfonzo, .308
OBP: Alfonzo, .391
SLG: Mike Piazza, .544
Runs: Alfonzo, 78
Hits: Roberto Alomar, 157
2B: Perez, 27
3B: Perez, 6
HR: Piazza, 33
SB: Roger Cedeno, 25
2002 Pitching leaders
(min. 30 IP):
IP: Al Leiter, 204 1/3
W: Leiter, 13
L: Leiter, 13
Win %: Armando Benitez, 1-0, 1.000
S: Benitez, 33
ERA: Grant Roberts, 2.20
K: Leiter, 172
K/9: Benitez, 10.56
WHIP: Benitez, 1.05
Projected starting lineup
CF Roger Cedeno/Timo Perez
2B Roberto Alomar
1B Mo Vaughn
C Mike Piazza
LF Cliff Floyd
RF Jeromy Burnitz
3B Ty Wigginton
SS Rey Sanchez
1. Tom Glavine
2. Al Leiter
3. Pedro Astacio
4. Steve Trachsel
5. Jason Middlebrook, Mike Bacsik or Aaron Heilman
LH setup man: Mike Stanton
RH setup man: David Weathers
Closer: Armando Benitez
Spring Cleaning: Five questions that need to be answered
1. Will general manager Steve Phillips trade an outfielder?
The Mets enter Spring Training with only Cliff Floyd guaranteed of a spot in the outfield. New York has three potential center fielders in Roger Cedeno, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Timo Perez, any one of which can also split time in right with Jeromy Burnitz. Raul Gonzalez has proven to be an adequate back up, as has Joe McEwing.
2. Will the Mets who struggled last season have bounce back years?
Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Mike Piazza and Burnitz all had off years in 2002, which contributed to New York's lackluster season. If the Mets are to have better fortunes in 2003, each of the aforementioned players will have to avoid the prolonged slumps that marked their 2002 campaigns.
3. Will Ty Wigginton be the everyday third baseman?
Phillips has maintained throughout the winter that there is no sense of urgency to find a third baseman. Unless he pulls off a deal before Opening Day, Wigginton will be manning the hot corner in place of Edgardo Alfonzo, most likely backed up by Russ Johnson and or Joe McEwing.
4. Will Tom Glavine succumb to the pressure of pitching in New York?
The veteran southpaw has never called anywhere home other than the relatively anonymous confines of Turner Field or Fulton County Stadium. How he will react to the cauldron that is New York and whether his second half in 2002 was the exception rather than the new norm for him are big questions surrounding the Mets premier free-agent acquisition.
5. How will Art Howe fare in the Big Apple?
Howe has drawn comparisons to Joe Torre since the day he took the job. He takes over for Bobby Valentine and the two couldn't be any more different with Howe's laid back presence expected to provide a calming influence in the New York clubhouse. But if the Mets get off to a bad start or the big guns have the kind of year they had in 2002, he'll draw more comparisons to Jeff Torborg than to Torre. How well he handles the heat will be interesting.
New faces: Players acquired via trade or free agency
LHP Tom Glavine -- The veteran left-hander brings experience and immediate respect to the top of New York's rotation. Art Howe has Glavine penciled in for 16-20 wins in 2003, not an unrealistic goal considering how he has pitched throughout his career. Glavine has never been hurt and never misses a start, giving the Mets their first bonafide ace in more than a decade.
LHP Mike Stanton -- Like Glavine, Stanton's experience will be invaluable on a staff that features young left-handers like Mike Bacsik and Jaime Cerda. He will serve as Armando Benitez' southpaw setup man and if his history is any indication, he'll be a fine complimentary workhorse to David Weathers from the right side.
OF Cliff Floyd -- The Mets finally have the left-handed bat to compliment Mike Piazza. His ability to hit for power and average gives New York a deadly one-two punch in the middle of its lineup. He's also solid defensively, giving the club the stability it hasn't had in left field for the last several seasons.
SS Rey Sanchez -- When the club signed the veteran infielder, they did so with the understanding that he may or may not be the Opening Day shortstop. Sanchez' future is linked to that of super prospect Jose Reyes and he is comfortable with that situation. He provides a glove comparable to that of Rey Ordonez and is a much better offensive player.
3B Russ Johnson -- He came over from Tampa Bay in the Ordonez deal and should see time at third. A lifetime .265 hitter, he isn't expected to be more than a backup/spot starter. Johnson has played well, though, in limited duty during a Major League career that began in 1997 with Houston.
3B Edgardo Alfonzo -- Fonzie's departure provided fodder for debate both internally and in the media. His presence in the clubhouse will be missed as will his glove on the field. The questions surrounding his back and declining production in each of the last two seasons, though, made it too much of a risk to sign him to a long-term deal.
SS Rey Ordonez -- There will be few people around Shea Stadium that will miss the enigmatic shortstop. He was not popular in the clubhouse or with the fans, saying and doing many inflammatory things during the course of last season. His bat always proved to be a liability while his once gold glove had tarnished in recent years.
IF John Valentin -- Curiously, the Mets continue to search for a third baseman, never giving Valentin much consideration for the spot. He was a utility man last season and proved he could still play after injuries hampered him in each of the previous two seasons. Valentin had three homers and 30 RBIs while batting .240 in 208 at-bats, 51 of which came as a pinch hitter.
RHP Jeff D'Amico -- Big Daddy turned out to be a big duddy, going 6-10 with a 4.94 ERA. He lost his spot in the starting rotation at the end of July. While he had a few brilliant games, he was hit hard more often than not.
LHP Mark Guthrie -- The southpaw specialist was a fine addition in 2002. He established a new team mark by going 33 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, a stretch during which he established a new personal best of 27 consecutive scoreless innings. He was 5-3 with a 2.44 ERA and a save in 68 games.
RHP Satoru Komiyama -- He came in billed as the Japanese Greg Maddux but never quite lived up to the hype. Komiyama had trouble adjusting to life as a reliever after spending his entire career as a starter in Japan. He was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, where he spent much of the second half after struggling early on. He finished with an 0-3 mark with a 5.61 ERA in 25 appearances.
RHP Steve Reed -- The quiet right-hander pitched effectively in 24 games after coming to New York in a deadline deal with San Diego. He had a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings but didn't fit into the team's bullpen plans this season.
RHP John Thomson -- he came over in a deadline deal with the Rockies and was supposed to provide a boost to the staff for a run at the wildcard spot. It didn't happen. He went 2-6 in nine starts with a 4.71 ERA, never looking comfortable at Shea Stadium or living in the big city.
Returning from injury
LHP John Franco -- The Captain probably won't return until June at the earliest. But he's already throwing off a mound, is pain free and in terrific shape. Anything he can lend to the pen when he returns will be a plus.
New kids on the block: Prospects to watch
SS Jose Reyes -- With the kind of hype and buildup this kid is receiving, one would expect to see Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez all rolled into one player. He's still a teenager, though, and odds are he won't even begin the year with the parent club. Expect to see him in Queens by the All-Star break.
RHP Aaron Heilman -- The big right-hander has been one of the most coveted prospects on the trade front this winter. He's expected to start the season in Triple-A but not before he gets a shot at earning the fifth spot in New York's rotation. If he doesn't make the club out of Spring Training, expect his arrival in the big leagues sometime over the summer.
On the rebound
1B Mo Vaughn -- The club has said the big man has spent his winter working out at home in Columbus, Ohio. Reportedly he has shed as much as 25 pounds and is ready for a big season. He struggled coming back last year after missing the 2001 season because of injuries. If Vaughn can return to form, he can be a force. He showed glimpses last year, hitting .271 with 16 homers after the All-Star break.
RF Jeromy Burnitz -- No one was more maligned in the New York lineup that Burnitz. He struggled to hit .215 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs. Though his name was mentioned in a series of trade rumors this winter, Burnitz paid no attention, spending his time focusing on returning to the form he displayed as a slugger with the Brewers.
C Mike Piazza -- Its difficult to imagine a player having to rebound from a year in which he hit 33 homers and drove in 98 runs. Piazza, however, has seen his power numbers and his average decline in each of the last two years as questions continue to swirl about his production as it relates to his being behind the plate. He batted .280 last season, the lowest full-season average of his career. It was 40 points below his career average and marked the first time he didn't crack the .300 barrier.
2B Roberto Alomar -- Alomar came to New York with Hall of Fame credentials but ended up being compared to Carlos Baerga before the season was out. Alomar says he is ready for his second season with the Mets and would like to sign a career-ending deal with the club. But unless he can regain his stroke at the plate and his confidence on the field, this will be his last year in New York.
The bottom line
The Mets have a new manager, several big-name free agents and a sense of purpose as they head down to Port St. Lucie. No one who was with the team last year wants to see a repeat performance. Having manager Art Howe around will certainly help the team move in a more positive direction. The additions of Glavine, Stanton and Floyd can only improve clubhouse demeanor while their on-field performances are expected to give the team a much-needed adrenaline boost. As they head to camp, the Mets must focus on their potential headed into 2003 and avoid dwelling on their disappointing 2002 season. The Braves have reloaded and the Phillies have improved. If New York is to make a run at a division crown then it needs to have a crisp, fundamentally sound spring, something it wasn't able to accomplish last year.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.