Mets face big questions heading into spring training

Sunday, February 11, 2018 09:05PM
(David Goldman - AP)
New York Mets new manager Mickey Callaway poses in the stadium at CitiField after he was introduced to the media, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in New York. (Kathy Willens)
(Kathy Willens - AP)
(Bill Kostroun - AP)
Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws during the first inning of Game 2 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals
New York Mets' Michael Conforto follows through on a seventh-inning solo home run during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of the National League wild-card baseball game. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Mets' Jay Bruce (19) reacts after striking out to end a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, in New York. The Cardinals won 5-0.
Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) in action during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
Matt Harvey (33) delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, April 27, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
L.A. Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, left, embraces Adrian Gonzalez after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 in L.A. (Mark J. Terrill)
NEW YORK - Redemption will be the theme for the New York Mets going into the 2018 season, following a disappointing year in which the team was decimated by injuries.

As the Mets head to camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida, here are some of the biggest questions that the team faces in their climb back to the top of the National League.
Can new manager Mickey Callaway help the Mets' starting rotation rise to past expectations?

The main reason the Mets were expected to contend for a World Series title was because of their young, dominant starting rotation. But things didn't work out as planned for Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, who all struggled with a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness.

Jacob deGrom was the lone Mets' starter to make at least 30 starts, but the team will need contributions from the rest of their staff if they are going to have any shot at a World Series title. Luckily for the Mets, their new manager Mickey Callaway, spent the past five seasons as the Cleveland Indians' pitching coach, which could be a huge asset for a team so dependent on pitching.

What will Dominic Smith's role be on the team now that the Mets have signed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez?

It was never a sure-thing for the Mets to hand the first base job to Dominic Smith, and with the addition of veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the team doesn't have to. Smith looked overmatched in his first stint in the majors, batting just .198 in 167 at-bats, but the first baseman did hit nine home runs and is still just 22 years old. The Mets likely still view Smith as their future first baseman, so a little extra seasoning in Triple-A wouldn't be a bad idea.

When can we expect Michael Conforto to return from his shoulder injury?

The Mets are expecting Michael Conforto to return from shoulder surgery in May ... so they say. Conforto was well on his way to a breakout season when, with one swing of the bat, the slugger dislocated his left shoulder. It was the "cherry on top" to a Mets season derailed by injuries.

Conforto is to the Mets, what Aaron Judge is to the Yankees, and if the team can get a healthy and productive return from Conforto by May, it could make all the difference.

Can Matt Harvey return to form in 2018?

The Dark Knight fell so far in 2017 it's almost hard to remember he's the same pitcher that led the Mets to the World Series in 2015. Harvey wasn't just bad last year, with a 6.70 earned run average in 19 games, the right-hander had an historically awful season. However, now that Harvey is a year removed from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, there's renewed hope that the Dark Knight will rise to once again lead the Mets to a championship run. If not, 2018 may be Harvey's final year with the Mets, as the pitcher is set to hit free agency after this season.
Which reliever will emerge as the Mets' full-time closer?

Mets' new manager Mickey Callaway recently announced that he plans to use a committee approach for save situations. Of the Mets relievers, Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins are expected to get the most looks for the ninth, but the best case scenario is that one of those four emerge as the full-time closer.

Familia was the Mets' de facto closer prior to 2017, but a shoulder injury and 15-game suspension for violating the leagues' personal conduct policy forced the reliever from that role. If Familia can rebound in 2018, ninth inning leads will be in good hands.

Do the Mets' offseason additions make the team a contender in 2018?

The Mets have had a sneaky good offseason after signing Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez to fill holes in their lineup, while also picking up right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak, who had a nice season for the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. There's no doubt that the Mets are a better club with these additions, but much of their success will hinder on the health and performance of their starting rotation. However, with so many free agents still unsigned, the Mets could still make additional moves to add insurance to their rotation and add more options to their bullpen.
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