PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It wasn't long ago that the Mets decided on Jenrry Mejia's future once and for all. He was going to be a starting pitcher. Seriously. For real.
But manager Terry Collins said on Monday that if Mejia does not make the rotation out of Spring Training, the Mets could carry him on the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
"One thing we know about him is, he can pitch out of the bullpen," Collins said. "We've seen it."
The Mets famously broke camp with a 20-year-old Mejia in tow in 2010, using him 30 times out of the bullpen before a right shoulder injury sidelined him. That sparked a two-year period of organizational indecision, during which the Mets tried to figure out if Mejia was better off starting or relieving.
"There were some people in this organization who felt maybe he couldn't be a starter because there's such maximum effort in his delivery." Collins said. "He proved them wrong, that he can go out there and start and can get you deep into a game. So, he's got that to his benefit."
And it seemed it would stay that way after Mejia posted a 2.30 ERA down the stretch last year, prior to undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. But now the Mets might switch things up again. Collins said last week that he liked the idea of having a veteran at the back of his rotation, and spoke glowingly of Daisuke Matsuzaka yet again on Monday. Matsuzaka is Mejia's chief competitor for the lone rotation vacancy, with John Lannan, Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero also fighting for it.
C. Young believes in strong defensive outfield
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- No matter which position he ends up playing, Chris Young believes he can be part of an elite defensive outfield in New York.
"I think we can be one of the best in baseball in the outfield," Young said on Monday after reporting to Mets camp several days early. "You're talking about guys with a lot of experience out there, a lot of speed, guys with good arms. Hopefully, we can get on the good side of our pitchers. Hopefully, they'll love us out there because we're going to be busting our butts. Anything that goes in the air will come down in our gloves."
Most likely, Young will wind up in his natural position of center field, with Eric Young in left and Curtis Granderson in right. But if Juan Lagares plays well this spring, he could start in center, with Granderson moving to left field, Chris Young to right and Eric Young to the bench.
That much will all play out over the next six weeks. For Chris Young personally, a fresh start in New York means "a lot more exposure" after seven up-and-down seasons in Arizona and one in Oakland.
"But I like that," Young said. "I've been waiting for an opportunity like this my whole life. I loved Arizona. I loved Oakland. But this is different. It's a different type of opportunity for me personally. This is my first time being on the East Coast, being able to play East Coast baseball.
"It just feels like a different brand of baseball from what I'm used to. It's tough to explain. It just feels different coming from smaller markets on the West Coast to a larger market on the East Coast."
Hefner pleased with his first throwing session
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hefner had just come in from throwing on Monday for the first time since surgery, his shirt still soaked in sweat, when Matt Harvey approached him at his locker. Curious about Hefner, who is several weeks ahead of him in his Tommy John rehab program, Harvey probed his teammate for information.
"He wants to be out there too," Hefner said. "But he'll get there."
Harvey won't begin throwing for at least another few days; the Mets have yet to tell him a date. As for Hefner, Monday marked his first time throwing a baseball since undergoing surgery in August. He tossed 20 times off flat ground from 60 feet, and was beaming at the result.
"I'm on Cloud Nine right now," Hefner said. "I'm so excited."
Hefner will throw twice more this week, then increase the distance and throw four times next week. He will eventually progress all the way up to 150 feet, at which point he will be ready to throw off a mound.
The ultimate goal is to be ready by mid-August, should the Mets need help out of the bullpen. Hefner went 4-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 24 appearances last season, including 23 starts. The Mets non-tendered him after the season to save money and move him off the 40-man roster, but quickly re-signed him to a Minor League deal.
Syndergaard impresses during bullpen outing
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Noah Syndergaard was well aware of the crowd gathering behind him on Monday as he prepared to throw his first bullpen session of camp. Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon were there. General manager Sandy Alderson was there. Vice president of player development Paul DePodesta was there. Manager Terry Collins was there.
So it was no coincidence that Syndergaard, despite telling himself to stay calm, unleashed what Collins described as "97 miles per hour with a hook from hell."
"Really impressive," Collins said. "Coming in here with the headlines that he's had, and everybody's standing around, it's human nature to try to impress everybody -- and he did."
The Mets' top-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, Syndergaard is scheduled to begin this season at Triple-A Las Vegas, making his Major League debut sometime in the middle third of the season.
"It's a really cool feeling," Syndergaard said of having everyone watch his bullpen session. "I just tried not to let it get the best of me."
Tejada gets with offseason fitness program
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When manager Terry Collins caught sight of his slimmed-down shortstop for the first time this spring, he asked Ruben Tejada how much faster he is after an offseason of conditioning in snowy Michigan.
"I'll show you," Tejada shot back.
Collins and the rest of the Mets' staff are certainly eager to see, after twice sending Tejada to a fitness camp alongside Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores and several other Mets. Different players had different goals for the programs, which focused on cardiovascular work for some, quickness and agility for others, strength for still others.
For Tejada, the programs provided a structured offseason unlike anything he had ever experienced at home in Panama.
"I feel really good," Tejada said. "I feel like new."
Preoccupied with his own training, Tejada said he did not spend much time this winter thinking about the Mets' public pursuit of a starting shortstop replacement, even with free agent Stephen Drew still unsigned.
"He's a great kid," Collins said of Tejada, who hit .202 in 57 games last season. "He's coming into this camp with a different attitude and a different makeup, that there's something to prove. This kid's never seen weather like that before. And to deal with it not only one month, but to go back there and do it again, when he could be outside in Panama running and fielding ground balls, and he's in Ann Arbor, Mich., where there's 100 inches of snow, that tells you something."