Luis Rojas: We Expect To Be A Contender

Mets Outfielder Michael Conforto Also Speaks Out On Beltran Ousting Etc.

Alec Gearty
February 11, 2020 - 2:05 pm
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Mets manager Luis Rojas holds high expectations for his club in 2020. 

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The Mets addressed their pitching during the offseason, adding starting pitcher Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and reliever Dellin Betances, to contend with the rest of the National League — including an improved division. On Tuesday, Rojas held his first official press conference as Mets' pitchers and catchers reported to the team's training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He believes the Mets will improve upon last year's 86-win season. 

"We expect to be a contender," Rojas said, via SNY. "We're going to be in a tough division and we're going to face some tough teams this year in our schedule, and we know that. We feel that we're built to win. 

"We have a great roster," Rojas added. "We have great position players with versatility. We've got great starting rotation or pitchers that have the starting history — Cy Young, World Series winners and a bullpen with a lot of guys that have history of saving games, being closers. It's a team built to win. Right now the thing that's going to keep us moving to a direction we want to go is spring training. It starts tomorrow."

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will likely return to the Mets at some point after missing the entire 2019 season. In the weeks leading up to spring training, Cespedes updated fans with montages of his training regimen as he attempts his comeback. The 34-year-old hasn't played since July 2018, where he had a procedure to repair multiple ankle fractures. 

Rojas says it's too early to rule Cespedes out for Opening Day. 

"We don't have a timeline," Rojas said. "He's running. He's hitting. I've had conversations with him, but we don't have the timeline yet. The performance staff is working on his progression and we're going from there."

Yoenis Cespedes
USA TODAY Images

Rojas is still a newcomer to his gig. He was appointed as Carlos Beltran's successor in January, where the Mets were set to get ready for spring training, despite having no managerial experience at the MLB level. The Mets hire of Rojas received positive reviews from the roster.

Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who reported early to spring training, praised the addition of his former minor league coach, calling Rojas a "game changer."

"Just knowing him from -- he was one of my first coaches coming into the organization," Conforto said, according to SNY. "He's been with almost all the guys that are homegrown in this organization. It's gonna be a game-changer, just knowing him as a person, knowing what he feels is important in the game of baseball, what his messages have been through the minor leagues. I don't anticipate them changing at all up here in the big leagues." 

Conforto also addressed Beltran's ousting following the latter's involvement in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal. Beltran "parted ways" with the Mets after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred included the former Astros' outfielder in his report, leaving Rojas to fill the Mets' managerial vacancy. 

"It's definitely a shock," Beltran said. "We were all very excited about getting the chance to play for Carlos. It's tough to not have the chance to play for him and to see what he had to offer. But obviously, the organization is going to do what's best for us moving forward into the season. Us as players — everybody who plays Major League Baseball was locked in on all of the stuff that was going on. There's a line that definitely shouldn't be crossed ..."

Related: Mets Facing Criticism For Barring Minor Leaguers From Fancy New Port St. Lucie Clubhouse