“We feel like our lineup can be as deep as anybody’s in baseball,” Van Wagenen said. “We think we have punch. We think we have guys that can impact the game with the bat, so we’re looking forward to utilizing the D.H. spot both to protect our guys’ health and to put up some offensive force.”
Van Wagenen said he was optimistic — there’s that word again — about Yoenis Cespedes, who had surgeries on both heels in 2018 and missed last season after fracturing his right ankle in an incident involving a boar at his ranch in Florida. By the time of the 2020 opener, on July 23 or 24, it will have been more than two years since Cespedes’ last major league appearance.
Even so, Van Wagenen said, “His bat can be a real impact and be a little bit of a separator for us as we compare ourselves to the rest of the teams in the league.”
Cespedes, a two-time All-Star, has lifted the Mets in late summer before, sparking their run to the World Series in 2015 and helping them to a wild-card appearance the next October. How much he has left, at 34 years old after so much inactivity, will be a fascinating subplot.
Starter Noah Syndergaard will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery, but the Mets have five experienced starters: the two-time reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, plus Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as multi-inning options out of the bullpen who should play pivotal roles.
“We may see shorter starts from certain pitchers early on in the year,” Van Wagenen said. “We may see bullpen arms pitching in situations earlier than they otherwise have been accustomed to. But we’re going to use it with the mind-set that every out counts, not just every inning.”
To be precise, every game counts 2.7 times more than usual in a 60-game season. It will be different and exciting, Van Wagenen said — but it will work only if the players and the staff take the perils of the pandemic seriously.