Mets, Yankees had understanding on hitting coach Eric Chavez

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Mets general manager Billy Eppler said he spoke to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman well before hiring away Eric Chavez as the team’s hitting coach and that both sides had an understanding that Chavez may end up in Queens.

The 44-year-old Chavez was hired by the Yankees in November as one of two assistants to new hitting coach Dillon Lawson – and projected to take on a role beyond his title. A few weeks later, the Mets hired the 17-year big leaguer to be their primary hitting coach.

Eppler said that he was in contact with Cashman before the Yankees hired Chavez, and that the Bronx Bombers knew Chavez might not end up in pinstripes if he was offered a greater role on the Mets’ staff.

“I had an understanding that if the lead role opened here, and he won the day, that he would get their blessing,” Eppler said. “And so, that’s ultimately what happened.”

The Mets announced their full coaching staff: Glenn Sherlock as bench coach, Wayne Kirby as first base coach, Joey Cora as third base coach, and Craig Bjornson as bullpen coach. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is the lone holdover from Luis Rojas’ 2021 staff, and Jeremy Barnes was promoted from director of player initiatives to assistant hitting coach.

Eppler said the team prioritized mindset and approach at hitting coach, and that Chavez – a career .268 hitter with 260 home runs – will focus more on game-planning than mechanics. Barnes will take more responsibility for fine-tuning the players’ swings.

“That kind of steered us in the direction of some experience living and dying in the batter’s box, for lack of a better term,” Eppler said of Chavez. “That’s how we ultimately landed on Eric, was just that ability to put together a plan for attacking a pitcher.”

Manager Buck Showalter and Sherlock first worked together in 1989, when Sherlock was a player-coach under Showalter at Double-A Albany. The 61-year-old Sherlock was on the Mets’ staff from 2017-19, holding spots as the third base coach, first base coach and catching instructor. He worked for Pittsburgh the past two years as its game-planning coach and catching instructor.

Sherlock will work with the Mets’ catchers, among other responsibilities.

“You bring up Glenn’s name, he’s just solid,” Showalter said.

Eppler has been on the job just over two months and has already overseen the hiring of the coaching staff and an aggressive free-agent splurge – $254.5 million spent on ace Max Scherzer, infielder Eduardo Escobar, and outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha.

With the coaching staff set and a freeze on 40-man roster moves in place until baseball’s labor lockout ends, Eppler said he plans to take deeper dives with other departments next.

“It’s time for me to really connect with player development, with amateur scouting, with pro scouting, with amateur international scouting with analytics, performance science,” he said. “The general front office and within baseball operations, the baseball systems grew. There’s a lot of ideas people have and there’s a lot of initiatives we want to implement as we move forward.”

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ opening day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday evening.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”