PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets have set their initial Grapefruit League rotation, holding back some of their established starters to take closer looks at those likely ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Rafael Montero will kick things off on Friday afternoon against the Nationals, followed by John Lannan on Saturday, Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday, Noah Syndergaard on Monday, Jon Niese on Tuesday and Bartolo Colon in a split-squad game Wednesday.
Montero, Lannan and Matsuzaka are all ostensibly competing for the Mets' fifth starter's job, though Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia appear to be the early frontrunners.
Two Mets pitchers not in the initial spring rotation, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler, will make their Grapefruit League debuts later this spring. Barring injury, Gee, Wheeler, Niese and Colon are all guaranteed spots in the Opening Day rotation, with Niese the early favorite to start against the Nationals on March 31.
"We've got to see everybody," manager Terry Collins said. "We have to get seven or eight starters ready. … I'm anxious to see them all."
E. Young buckling up to hang onto speed belt
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Grateful for the gift, Eric Young Jr. tried to take his new stolen base title belt home with him earlier this weekend. But his Mets teammates stopped him, telling Young he must keep it displayed in the clubhouse at Tradition Field.
So there was the wrestling-style belt on Sunday morning, proudly displayed above Young's locker. Mets manager Terry Collins and first-base coach Tom Goodwin presented it to him during a pre-camp meeting a day earlier, to the delight of a surprised outfielder.
"I had no clue it was coming," Young said. "I was just sitting there listening as though it was a regular meeting, and then they brought this out to me."
The leather belt, which includes flag decals from several nations and a mirror on each side, was the Mets' gift to Young for winning the National League stolen base title. Now that it is in his possession, Young, who swiped 38 of his league-leading 46 bags with the Mets, said he does not intend to give up the belt without a fight.
"The only way they can challenge me [for it] is by stealing some bases," Young said of his National League peers.
Flores hoping for peace in his home country
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Count Wilmer Flores among those hoping for a speedy resolution to the political strife in his home country of Venezuela.
"I'm really worried," said Flores, one of three Venezuelan players in Mets camp along with shortstop Wilfredo Tovar and pitcher Miguel Socolovich. "We don't know what's going to happen. They're just going to keep going to the street and we'll see what happens."
For weeks, Venezuelans unhappy with the country's political course have been protesting, at times violently, in the streets of major cities.
Flores is from Valencia, roughly 100 miles from the capital of Caracas. He said he has cautioned his mother, who still lives there with his aunt and other family members, not to leave home.
"I just don't want her to go out where it's dangerous," Flores said. "But where she lives, there's not too much going on."
Though Flores spent much of his winter attending two separate Mets-sponsored fitness camps in Michigan, he was in Venezuela from mid-November through mid-January.
"I wish everything works out for the best," he said. "I'm not with the president. I'm not with the other group of people. I just want everybody to be safe and our country to be good."