While many baseball experts already count the New York Mets out of playoff contention this early in the spring, the Mets have many athletes that can surpass expectations enough to make a legitimate comeback in 2011.
As the team continues to work hard in Port St. Lucie, here is a list of the seven recovering New York Mets that will have the biggest impact on the 2011 MLB season.
Recovering from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries in the early 2000’s, new-Met lefty Chris Capuano will need to prove he is again capable of conquering the rigors of an MLB schedule if he wants a crack at the New York Mets’ starting rotation.
“There were definitely time when I thought, ‘Am I just beating my head against the wall? Should I go back to school? Should I be considering other options at this point?’” Capuano said earlier this spring to Mets.com.
Now that Capuano is on the fast track to breaking camp with the Mets, these thoughts are behind him and he can now focus on using his finesse pitches to get hitters out.
Winning a career-high 18 and making the NL All-Star team in 2005, Capuano has his sights set on a successful comeback as a Met and New York can use all the pitching help available.
“I just kept seeing myself as a Met, and I just had a really good gut feeling about it. The opportunity for me, and for the Mets, I think was just a really good fit right now” (Mets.com).
With 16 days left until Opening Day, Terry Collins has adamantly stated that Carlos Beltran will only need 10 days of spring workouts to be ready for the first pitch.
As that window is slowing dwindling, Beltran’s recovery from his aching knee seems to be taking more time than anyone, including Carlos himself, could have thought.
While Beltran’s recovery and subsequent reemergence as one of the games greats is certainly not out of the question, he will need to do a lot more than light tossing in St. Lucie if he wants to get on track for Opening Day.
When Beltran returns to the Mets lineup, his presence will be immediately felt by the guys batting around him and hopefully he will be able to prove to other teams that he still has worth as an outfielder.
After making a total of 36 starts the past three season, Chris Young is another Mets recovering star who has the potential to surprise many around the league.
Health is the key issue that Young needs to focus his 2011 season on. If he can remain healthy, he should be on the fast track to claiming the Mets fourth starter role.
The 6’10” righty has a vast repertoire of pitches, including a new split-fingered fastball that can induce a much-needed ground ball. It’s Young’s shoulder health, however, that we should be most concerned with.
Young should be poised for a successful 2011 season and a recovery that will even amaze Mets fans.
“I feel good,” Young said after a spring training start to NJ.com. “I feel strong. The ball had life on it. It’s something to build on.”
After missing the final two months of the 2010 season with a concussion suffered when slamming into the left field wall at Dodger Stadium, Jason Bay is finally back and ready to prove he can still be a productive player in the Mets outfield.
It was the first time since 2003 that Bay didn’t manage to hit more than 21 home runs--belting a whopping six in 2010. Bay is now ready to get back on track, and the Mets need him to do so badly.
“I want to get back to the player I know I am,” Bay told the Long Island Press. “I lost that a little bit last year. I’m not out there to prove anybody right or wrong, more to myself. GO out there and be consistent and be the guy I’m supposed to be.”
As Bay gets back to the form that garnered a four-year, $66 million contract before the 2010 season, expect him to bounce back to his average marks of 30 home runs and 101 RBIs in 2011.
The undisputed ace of the Mets pitching staff, Johan Santana is due a hefty $77.5 million from the team over the next three years. As such, it’s important that we follow his recovery from shoulder surgery very closely.
He is currently in what GM Sandy Alderson calls ‘Phase Two’ of his recovery.
Santana has returned to throwing at the Mets spring training complex, and he will gradually advance from flat ground to the mound and from short-toss to long-toss.
While disputed reports recently circulated which implied Santana is done for the season or behind in his rehab, Johan remains very optimistic about this recovery and is thankful that he has not hit a setback (cross your fingers).
As Santana progresses slowly from surgery, expect him to hit the ground running for the Mets when they insert him back into the top of the rotation sometime around the All-Star break.
Santana is a huge part of this team and he will be greatly missed, but he’s still a major factor for team chemistry and having fun from the bench.
Jose Reyes has suffered injury after injury, from a hamstring tendon to a strained oblique to an unusual thyroid issue, all while still just 27 years old.
Still in his prime, Reyes is gearing up for a spectacular 2011 as he plays for his next contract--hopefully from the Mets.
“I want to be the player I was before all the injuries and I know I can be," Reyes told the NY Post. “[This] year, I’ll be different. It’s going to be a big year.”
A healthy Reyes is more than capable of stealing 50+ plus bases, hitting close to .300 with 15+ homers, and legging out 25 triples. He is so talented, however, that this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Reyes will be playing for his career as a Met, and Sandy Alderson will want to see him play at a top-notch level before signing him to a long-term deal.
“I can’t wait to get started again,” Jose told Mets.com. “This is where I began my career and this is where I want to stay. The last four years have been disappointing for everyone. We have to make it better and we will.”
As Francisco Rodriquez potentially enters the last year of his contract with Mets, his recovery from offseason thumb surgery is almost as important as his attitude change entering the 2011 season.
K-Rod’s problems date way back to an on-field confrontation with Brian Bruney and a bus ride tussle against former Mets employee Tony Bernazard. Everything came to a head this past season after he assaulted his girlfriend’s father inside Citi Field.
K-Rod is now forced to attend weekly anger management classes while also rehabbing his surgically repaired thumb. I firmly believe that if the Mets go deep in the 2011 season, Rodriguez will need to have a huge part in creating this reality.
K-Rod's contract includes a $17.5 million vesting option that automatically triggers if he appears in over 55 games. Terry Collins and Mets decision-makers should do the smart thing by letting K-Rod do what he does best: getting hitters out on a consistent basis.
Collins has told the NY Post that he “understands the implications” surrounding Frankie’s contract and is willing to let K-Rod pitch as much as the Mets need him, but he added, “Let’s see where the season takes us [first].”