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Mets 26-man roster projection as spring training draws to a close, injuries mount

Things sure have changed for the Mets over the last two weeks.

The Mets’ World Series hopes took a hit last week when closer Edwin Diaz underwent knee surgery following a World Baseball Classic injury and outfielder Brandon Nimmo suffered sprains to his right knee and ankle as the result of an awkward slide into second base. The bullpen has been beleaguered with injuries to left-hander Brooks Raley and right-handers Bryce Montes de Oca and Sam Coonrod.

Further fueling the concerns of fans is the performances of Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso in the WBC. The duo is a combined 2-for-18 for Team USA. Despite the thrilling theatrics of the Americans’ quarterfinal victory over Venezuela on Saturday night, some fans are still calling for the event to end or at least be moved to another time of the year so it doesn’t affect the Major League season.

But the WBC concerns are futile at best for the moment. The regular season is less than two weeks away and as of Sunday, we know Diaz will probably be out all year and Nimmo might miss Opening Day. The one silver lining is that the Mets might have some salary relief with Diaz, since MLB’s WBC insurance will cover his contract for 2023. The Mets aren’t exactly hamstrung by financial concerns under owner Steve Cohen, but should the team find that the offense isn’t offensive enough or the pitching pool isn’t as deep as it once looked on paper, general manager Billy Eppler will have the leeway to make moves and take on salary.

But for now, the Mets have to work with what they have. Here is our second crack at a 26-man roster projection.

Catcher: Omar Narvaez, Tomas Nido

No change here. The Mets’ catching crew was decided before spring training started. Nido, a trusted homegrown backstop, is having a strong spring at the plate, hitting .344 with a 1.052 OPS and three home runs. It’s a good sign for the regular season.

Infield: Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Eduardo Escobar, Francisco Lindor, Luis Guillorme

No changes to this group either. If you’re looking for a reason for optimism, look no further than Lindor’s performance in the WBC: The shortstop is 9-for-20 (.450) with a triple, five RBI and six runs scored. Defensive whiz Luis Guillorme broke out of his spring training slump this weekend with a big game against the Miami Marlins and he’s expected to make the team over Danny Mendick, who is healthy again after tearing his ACL last season.

Outfield: Mark Canha, Starling Marte, Tommy Pham, Tim Locastro

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If Nimmo starts the season on the injured list, it would open up a spot for former Yankees outfielder and Syracuse native Tim Locastro. Base running is Locastro’s specialty and he can impact the game and create runs with his speed. He’s stolen six bags this spring and has been impressive at the plate as well. Locastro is hitting .342 with a 1.049 OPS and he leads the team in doubles (five) and runs scored (13).

Designated hitter: Daniel Vogelbach, Darin Ruf

Much like last season, Vogelbach will be the DH against right-handed pitching and Ruf against left-handed pitching. Ruf was slow to start this spring because of a wrist injury but he’s hoping that he’s adjusted well enough following last season’s trade that he returns to old form.

Rotation: RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Kodai Senga, RHP Carlos Carrasco, LHP David Peterson, RHP Tylor Megill

The Mets don’t want to use a six-man rotation all season but they would like to do it during specific parts of the year to allow for more rest for their starters. Using an extra pitcher for 162 games would require pitchers to adapt to a new schedule, which would force them to adapt to new routines. But using an extra man during busy stretches would give some arms an extra day or two off at times. They can keep left-hander Joey Lucchesi stretched out in Triple-A to be able to call him up when needed since they won’t be able to use left-hander Jose Quintana (bone graft surgery) until sometime over the summer.

Bullpen: RHP Drew Smith, RHP Adam Ottavino, RHP David Robertson, LHP Brooks Raley, RHP Stephen Nogosek, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP John Curtiss

Raley has been sidelined with a hamstring injury but he’s expected to be ready for the regular season. Coonrod (lat strain) and Montes de Oca (forearm strain) were looking like locks to make the team until they went down with injuries. But veteran Tommy Hunter has jumped into the mix with six scoreless innings in five appearances and seven strikeouts. Curtiss has been ready for a few months, eager to pitch again after missing all of 2022 and most of 2021 with Tommy John surgery.

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