With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Mets squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?
NEW YORK -- Even with their recent flurry of bullpen acquisitions capping a reasonably active offseason, the Mets will report to Spring Training this month looking an awful lot like the team that last walked off the field in October.
Consider their primary offseason transactions: re-signing Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, without a major trade or outside acquisition interspersed. All four of those players were on the team last summer. No one who figures to play a key role for the 2017 club was not.
What's the difference for the Mets heading into the new season, then? Quite simply, a promise of health.
If the Mets' top rotation arms of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler stay even reasonably healthy, the club is virtually guaranteed to perform more consistently than it did last season, when those five started just 93 of the Mets' 162 games. If they can bump that number up into the 120 range or higher, the Mets know the sort of talent they'll unleash.
"No. 1, you've got to be careful in Spring Training," Mets manager Terry Collins said recently. "You can't push them too hard."
Though injuries have bedeviled the Mets before, they believe they finally have a handle on that problem. During the season, the Mets will pay close attention to their top five starters, skipping some starts, cutting short others, and even temporarily moving to a six-man rotation as they did at times last season. Whatever it takes to keep their pitchers healthy, the Mets will try.
And while there's no magic formula to achieve that, the Mets know a healthy rotation is their best chance at a better team.
Much of the Mets' consternation over their rotation health could dissipate later this month, when Harvey, deGrom and Matz -- all of them coming off surgeries -- start throwing off mounds in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with the first pitchers-and-catchers workout set for Feb. 14. The Mets' first full-squad workout is Feb. 19. But that's just the start for a Mets team that will be monitoring its medical situation throughout the summer.
It is, after all, the Mets' key to improvement.
"The best pitching staffs are the healthiest," Collins said. "We've got these five horses and we've got to make sure we run them out there. So we're going to be very, very diligent in trying to make sure they're rested, we don't overwork them, we keep an eye on not just pitch counts, but their innings limits. And hopefully we break camp with all five of them and we will manage it from there."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.