Luis Rojas on Mets strategy and philosophy to keep players fresh

SAN DIEGO – Pete Alonso was not in the lineup on Thursday for the team’s important opener against the Padres. Shortly after the lineup was released, Mets fans panicked.

“No Alonso? One fan tweeted. “Where’s Alonso!” We need answers, ”said another fan.

Yes, Alonso’s absence was odd considering he went 5 for 13 with a homerun, five RBIs and three runs scored in his first three games back on the injured list. But the Mets’ reasoning for his day off had nothing to do with another right hand injury, as many fans had speculated.

“He didn’t have a rehab assignment and he played three days in a row, one of them being an extra game,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said on Thursday. “We just have to give him a day off.”

The team’s response for Alonso’s day on the bench is a strategy they will continue to use, not only to minimize setbacks, but to ensure players stay fresh for the pace of the season. baseball.

In Alonso’s case, he spent near the minimum on the 10-day IL with his sprain, avoided a rehab mission, and returned straight to starting lineup for the team’s series in Arizona. The Mets have said that because he hasn’t relaxed his workload with rehab games, the trade-off is to give him days off when it makes sense for the club. Right-hander Yu Darvish stepped onto the mound on Thursday, reason enough to seat Alonso.

The next day, the Mets put Dominic Smith on the bench against southpaw Blake Snell. Again, Rojas explained, no injury-related issues led to Smith’s night off. The Mets gave him a day off because, as injuries are on the rise throughout the league, they know firsthand what it’s like to play shorthanded and it’s a damaging situation they would like to avoid.

So the Mets’ philosophy – with 13 players currently on the IL – to keep their regular players cool will include additional scattered rest days, both in healthy scenarios (like Smith) and in injury recovery circumstances. (like Alonso).

“I know we’ve had a few injuries, but I think we’ve been really good at communicating how the guys are doing and where their workload is now that it’s June, so we’re smart enough to have guys in August and September, ”Rojas said.

The Mets used a similar strategy with their relievers. The Mets box entered the MLB fifth overall on Saturday with a 3.39 ERA that trailed only the Padres, Cubs, Yankees and Indians. The Mets relievers combined to pitch 180.1 innings, the second lowest number of innings pitched by an MLB relief unit, in large part because they played the fewest games.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter and Dellin Betances are the only Mets back-up weapons to hit the IL so far. The Mets relievers, though taxed with reliever matches and early entries, have largely remained healthy throughout the club’s first 50 games of the year and Rojas attributed that success, again, to the days leave.

“From a pitch point of view, we gave [Miguel] Castro extra days off and we gave [Trevor] May extra days off, ”Rojas said. “And not because they have something, but because we want to be ahead of it. We want these arms in August and September to work the same, from a point of view of things. We can do the same with [Edwin] Diaz and [Jeurys] Familia, depending on the workload of these guys.

Rojas said he relies on a team of sports science experts to alert him when players need days off. Jim Cavallini has been the Mets’ Director of Performance and Sports Science since January 2018. Cavallini is assisted by several other members of his Performance Department who are responsible for the process of monitoring player workload and strength routines. and packaging.

“He tracks it all down and he gives us a feel for the trend of the guys so that we can make decisions, and so we can keep the guys on the team performing and not having any uncertainty,” Rojas said.

So while the random days off for hitters like Alonso and Smith in a thrilling streak against a top team like the Padres can be frustrating for fans, it’s part of the Mets’ plan to keep their players healthy. and fresh as long as possible. It’s not the sexiest reason to put key players on the bench, but if it helps the Mets keep their team on track for a 162-game season, well, fans should have no problem. to understand.

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