On the field Friday, the Mets started to practice what they preach. Situational hitting, more focus on baserunning and defense and overall aggressiveness in all phases of the game.
This was a sneak preview of the new Mets.
Instead of using pitchers, the Mets ramped up a pitching machine to 90 mph about 50 feet from home plate to keep the action going. For fun, they dressed up bullpen catchers Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill as football refs, via Amazon shopping, whistles and all.
Spring training games start Saturday, but this scrimmage was telling and one of the most interesting features of the day was located behind the batting cage.
The Mets set up not one, but two bunting stations.
A bunting station behind the batting cage will be a regular fixture in the Mets minor leagues this season.
This is a new day. The Mets also set up situational running on the bases — first and third, one out; man on third, less than two outs — just to see how batters and runners would react.
No longer is it just wait around for the three-run homer.
“I’ve never seen that before, it was great,’’ new second baseman Robinson Cano told The Post of the use of the pitching machine from close range. “I loved it.’’
Assistant general manager Allard Baird, who came over from the world champion Red Sox, wanted to introduce some new ideas, including bunting stations, and got input from the Mets’ staff with Mickey Callaway and his coaches coming up with the suggestion of using the pitching machine from in close.
“We’re going to be very aggressive in spring training,’’ Baird said of the changes. “Everybody knows they have a certain governor on how far they can go, we want to push it and take it to the next level if that means figuring out in spring training, so be it. You don’t want to ask guys that during the season.
“They are learning about themselves because we are trying to push them to another level of aggressiveness,’’ Baird said as he watched the scrimmage from the seats along third base. “Force the defense to stop you, you don’t stop the defense.’’
The Red Sox’s baserunning by the end of the season last year was terrific and Boston manager Alex Cora said last week they will continue to put pressure on the defense. The Mets seem to be following suit. On balls in the dirt, base runners, no matter their speed, must get the proper read and take the base.
All the little things are in play.