Mets already feeling the Luis Rojas difference
PORT ST. LUCIE — Communication, preparation and attention to detail.
All three components came together this week in one small example of the difference Luis Rojas is making as Mets manager.
The Mets were working on cutoffs and relays. As the drill progressed, catcher Wilson Ramos offered a suggestion. Rojas, whose watchword is communication, listened.
Rojas explained to The Post: “Wilson said, ‘Hey Luis, why don’t we have the middle infielders throw the ball in the air from the line, instead of the long hop. From the left field line, it’s tough having to stretch out for that throw and then do a swipe tag.’ ’’
To make the throw in the air made it easier for Ramos to get the momentum needed to finish the play. The change was made.
This is only one small example in a camp filled with tight baserunning drills, bunt defenses, pitchers holding runners, live batting practice, secondary leads and much more of the little things.
The wheels are always turning for Rojas, who prepares much like an NFL coach, taking his work home and then delivering on the promise. His Mets open the spring training schedule Saturday with split-squad games against the Marlins at Clover Park and the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.
“When you know you have talent you have to say, ‘OK, where’s the edge?’ ’’ Rojas told The Post on Friday, explaining the nuts and bolts of his philosophy. “The best way is you have to prepare accordingly to the product you have. We know who we are now. Later we will prepare for our opponents but we have our identity now. Our identity is the Mets Way.’’
The new Mets Way was written about in The Post two weeks ago. Rojas spelled out exactly what this will mean.
“We want to get into a town and we want to be acknowledged,’’ Rojas said. “‘Hey, the Mets do this: Go first to third, score from first on doubles, score from second on singles. They make the plays. They are fundamentally sound.’
“That’s what our identity should be always,’’ Rojas continued. “We are working really hard now in collaboration to get that identity put out there. For me it is the communication. We want the feedback from the players and the coaches. How we do things, there can always be more ideas.’’
Just like on the cutoff play and Ramos’ suggestion.
Walk through the Mets clubhouse and players gush about Rojas. Most of these Mets played for Rojas somewhere along the minor league line or were around last year when he was quality control coach.
“He was the best minor league manager that I had and I had a lot of good ones,’’ Michael Conforto said. “Just open lines of communications, you always felt comfortable going up to him, telling him exactly what you were feeling. He wanted to hear your thoughts on certain plays and he wanted to try to understand them, instead of hear them and tell you that you are wrong. He was hard on us at the same time. He’s got all the things you want in a manager. His steadiness will be good in this market.’’
Noted Pete Alonso: “I really got to know him in 2017 when I got to Double-A. I just love how he is so even-keeled. There is no panic. Everything is calm, cool and collected. Every little move he makes in the game, he is always adjusting to what the game gives him. There is always a plan.’’
Veteran Robinson Cano added: “When I was injured last year, I got to spend time with him and he’s always got it together. His baseball knowledge is unbelievable.’’
You can sense the level of trust the players have for Rojas. You can see it in how serious they go through their drills, exhibiting a sense of purpose yet having fun.
Then this from catcher Tomas Nido: “Luis is always prepared. That’s the biggest thing. If you are prepared, then you take care of everything. He has us going out there doing the little things, so we are prepared and then when it comes to games we just execute. He knows what he wants to do. He is the right leader.’’
The right leader at 38.
When the season starts and a good play is made, the attention to detail and collaboration of ideas on display now will have made a difference.
Source : Kevin Kernan Link