As the northeast braces for another six weeks of winter, signs that spring is approaching are starting to appear. Throughout the major leagues, teams are reporting to spring training in Florida and Arizona in advance of the 2013 baseball season. The New York Mets are no different, as Monday marked the first day that pitchers and catchers were required to report, in effect signifying the unofficial beginning of the 2013 season. The majority of the team has already reported to Port St. Lucie well in advance of the mandatory reporting date for position players, and there is no shortage of spring stories for this week's edition of Mets 101 News and Notes (and it will be Bourn free, we promise). Let's get started with:
Frank Francisco Shut Down Due to Elbow Inflammation:
Already on rocky ground after a shaky 2012 season, Frank Francisco is starting off 2013 on the wrong foot injury wise. Manager Terry Collins revealed in an interview with WFAN's Mike Francesa that the embattled closer has been shut down indefinitely after the closer complained of elbow pain. Francisco revealed that he has been suffering from elbow inflammation and will be shut down until the pain subsides. Collins told Francesa that Bobby Parnell will be given the first crack at closing games while Francisco is out. Parnell, who was set to be the team's primary setup man, earned seven saves last season in relief of Francisco. Collins chose to give Parnell the nod for now, but mentioned that Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins could also figure into the closer equation at some point this spring.
Lucas Duda Works to Improve His Swing:
After failing to sign Michael Bourn, the New York Mets' current group of outfielders will fall under a larger level of scrutiny. Heading that group is left fielder Lucas Duda, who is the only one firmly entrenched in a starting role for 2013. Duda arrived to training camp early and has spent a lot of time working with hitting coach Dave Hudgens on making his swing more consistent, Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Duda is working on eliminating a hitch in his swing, and Michael Baron of MetsBlog reports that the hitch was nearly invisible in a batting practice session today. It remains to be seen if Duda can carry that swing into regular season games, but Duda has by far the most power potential of any Mets outfielder. Duda is the only one in the current group capable of hitting 20 home runs this season, and the Mets will need him to at least reach that plateau if they hope to make some noise in a tough division.
Jenrry Mejia's Arrival Delayed:
One player who has not arrived at spring training yet is pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Mejia has been delayed due to an issue with his visa, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reports. Mejia is expected to work with the starting pitchers this spring, and given the current depth the Mets have in the rotation he should open his season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Johan Santana Ready to Focus on Baseball:
There are bound to be many stories throughout the season about Johan Santana's future with the Mets. Santana is entering the final year of his seven year contract with the team and has a 25.5 million dollar option that will almost certainly be declined after the season. In spite of all the rumors that Santana could finish the season in another uniform, Santana is healthy and looks to pitch in 2013 on a high level. Santana insisted that his focus was on staying healthy throughout the 2013 season when chatting with reporters, including ESPN New York's Adam Rubin. Santana figures to draw the Opening Day start for the Mets if he can prove he is healthy throughout spring training, but if the Mets are out of the race by the trade deadline he could be shopped for prospects like Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey were. Santana is coming off a 2012 season where he displayed a return to form capped by his June 1st no hitter, but he struggled mightily after that game.
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