PORT ST. LUCIE — Luis Rojas will keep his remarks brief to conform with safety protocols, but nonetheless plans to ring the metaphorical opening bell on the Mets’ season Monday morning by addressing the team.
With the first full-squad workout of 2021 on the docket, the second-year manager wants to ensure his players don’t have any preconceptions after an active offseason by the front office that has left the Mets as maybe the team to beat in the NL East.
“We have so much to do and I have talked already about this with a few guys,” Rojas said Sunday. “We’re a very talented group of guys. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re the best team out there. That is something we have gradually got to get to. The talented group of guys working together as a team is what is going to make that, so the message will be along those lines.”
After a last-place NL East finish and the arrival of new ownership/front office leadership, the Mets retooled the roster. The biggest of those offseason acquisitions, Francisco Lindor, arrived Sunday and worked out, donning a Mets uniform for the first time.
Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr. are other new arrivals among position players. Last week, catchers and pitchers reported, bringing James McCann, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor May and Aaron Loup to Clover Park for their first workouts. Over the weekend, the Mets signed Taijuan Walker to a two-year contract.
“I’ve seen a bunch of pictures out there of [Lindor] in the uniform, but to actually see him in person wearing the Mets uniform is just very exciting, blending in with the rest of the guys out there as well,” Rojas said. “Great personality, he was smiling of course. I am looking forward to seeing him with the full squad [Monday].”
Rojas, who addressed the team before the first full-squad workout last year and then had a repeat performance with the launch of summer camp following the shutdown for the pandemic, was asked if he’s become more comfortable holding such meetings.
“I was comfortable from the start last year, I had known a lot of the guys [from the minor leagues] and I think that helped,” Rojas said. “Definitely experience gives you a little more comfort in respect to the moments when you are addressing the team, but I’m just passing a message that I think is going to give some angle to the guys on how things are going to be so they can work on some things in a specific way or better way.
“You definitely feel more comfortable with experience passing that message. You are more aware after last year that [the players] know — they know how to get there as well.”
The core of Rojas’ staff remained intact, with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, hitting coach Chili Davis, infield/third base coach Gary DiSarcina and catching instructor Brian Schneider returning. They join newly arrived outfield/first base coach Tony Tarasco and bench coach Dave Jauss (who runs the spring camp) in shouldering much of the responsibility for ensuring the players are ready.
Rojas this weekend also got to meet the boss of bosses for the first time, with new owner Steve Cohen’s appearance at camp. It was Rojas’ first time meeting in-person with Cohen, who also mingled with players and staff.
“As our new owner, he has shown his passion for the team and how he’s been communicating with the guys as well,” Rojas said. “It was definitely great to see him present, watching the sides and different things we’re doing out there with the catchers and pitchers program going on, so we’re looking forward to seeing him soon again in spring training, hopefully.”