There’s been a lot of speculation this winter about free agent shortstop Stephen Drew potentially landing with the Mets, but the team has publicly thrown their support behind Ruben Tejada in recent weeks. Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi is the latest example, saying on WEEI’s “Hot Stove Show” that the team is happy with the idea of going into 2014 with Tejada as the starting shortstop.
“I think we are,” said Ricciardi when asked if the Mets were happy with heading into 2014 with the 24-year-old Tejada. ‘He’s a young player. As Johnny can tell you, a lot of young players who get to play at the big league level early in their career, a lot of them don’t realize how hard it is to play every day. A lot of them don’t realize what it takes to play every day. I think in Ruben’s case, he got a lot early in his career and I think he’s starting to realize that he has to work a lot harder than he has in the past, and he has. To his credit, he really has. But as a young player, they get to the big leagues, some things happen for them and they forget how tough it is to stay there. I think he’s at that stage in his career. I think next year he’s going to be a better player than he was this previous year.”
Tejada is coming off a nightmare season in which he batted just .202 with a .519 OPS in 202 plate appearances. The 24-year-old spent a long stretch of time in the minors after a quad injury and suffered a broken fibula after he rejoined the team in September. Still, he hit .287 with a .345 on-base percentage between 2011-2012, so a rebound isn’t out of the question. The Mets clearly haven’t given up on him, as they sent him to a fitness camp earlier this offseason, but there’s still a chance that Drew could fall into their laps if his market dwindles. As Ricciardi said, “there’s just not a lot of demand for shortstops” at the moment.
While Drew remains a possibility, the Mets could cross their fingers with Tejada in 2014 while waiting for next offseason when J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie will all be free agents.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.