So you can imagine deGrom's enthusiasm after New York's roller-coaster offseason that spring training is almost here and that there will be a familiar face captaining it.
"He knows the game of baseball really well," deGrom said of Rojas. "He communicates really well with everybody. You ask every guy in there that has been around him. Just a good baseball guy and a really good person."
The Mets could use that type of steadying force following a dizzying four-month spell. After firing manager Mickey Callaway in October, the Mets hired Carlos Beltran to replace him in November, only to part ways with Beltran in January. Finally, with the sign-stealing scandal simmering a bit and the roster all but set for spring training, New York ultimately ended up with Rojas.
"Our main focus," deGrom said, "is on what we need to do."
The Rojas hire was, by far, the top talking point among the Mets on Saturday at the organization's annual Fan Fest. While several members of the team were asked about the sign-stealing scandal, and Beltran's role in it, it was clear the Mets are focused on their new manager and building off the momentum of last season's finish.
"He definitely is looking out for your best interest. Like I said in the minor leagues, his goal was player development," deGrom said of Rojas. "Even talking to him last year, you can tell that is still his mindset. He wants you to be your best. Any time someone can get that out of players, it will definitely help the team."
Pete Alonso, last season's National League Rookie of the Year, also played for Rojas in the minors, long before becoming the first Met to lead the majors outright in home runs with 53. He is just as enthused with the Mets' choice.
"I think the stuff that happened with Carlos was very unfortunate. He's very knowledgeable about the game," Alonso said. "But I think Luis is going to do an absolute excellent job."
On Friday, New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen introduced Rojas, 38, by framing the huge expectations of a team led by deGrom and Alonso.
"We have a collection of major league players," Van Wagenen said, "that are talented and built to win right now."
The Mets finished in third place in the National League East last season. At 86-76, they fell behind two playoff teams in their division -- the Washington Nationals, who won the World Series, and the Atlanta Braves, who won the East. New York shook a ho-hum start with a summer flurry that vaulted the Mets into wild-card contention. Ultimately, they finished three games behind the final berth, before Callaway was let go.
"The way we played in the second half, we pretty much have the same group of guys coming back, so we're excited," deGrom said. "Looking forward to spring and getting things going. Just being around the guys, being up here for one day, it was like we never left. Just the vibe you get from them and everybody is excited, so I think we're ready to go."
It is now up to Rojas, New York's fourth manager in less than three years, to harness that energy.
"Just kind of seeing him manage a game, dude never loses his cool, never hits the panic button. He's always so prepared," Alonso said. "He doesn't just use his knowledge of the game, he uses his instincts very, very well. He's paid his dues managing in the minor leagues."
Rojas is the son of former Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou and the brother of former big league outfielder Moises Alou, who spent his final two pro seasons with the Mets from 2007 to 2008. Rojas was minor league manager for eight years, and he has worked in the organization since 2007.
"My relationship with the guys on the team is a strong one. I feel very secure with how this relationship is gonna be with our roster," Rojas said Friday. "We're here to win. I know them, but it's even better that they know me. I think that's gonna help us."
Van Wagenen concurred
"The equity that he built, not only with the players but the organization and the coaches, was significant in terms of ultimately choosing him," Van Wagenen said. "The players understand his voice. They know when he says something that it has purpose. He doesn't waste a whole lot of words."
DeGrom, who has clearly developed into a voice for Mets players, could not stress enough at Fan Fest how optimistic the clubhouse will be with Rojas at the helm.
"Everybody in that room knows what they need to do to get ready, and I think everybody was comfortable with Luis," he said. "Everybody knows him, so I think that made it a little bit easier, honestly."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Luis Rojas set to be next Mets manager
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