Me­so­raco has caught on fast

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - KRISTIE ACKERT

For a man who had just packed up his en­tire life leav­ing the only base­ball home he had ever known in the rearview win­dow, Devin Me­so­raco was sur­pris­ingly not dis­tracted. He walked in and took con­trol of a room full of team­mates whose names he couldn’t be asked to know yet.

“He just took over the pitch­ers’ meet­ing right away,” Mets pitch­ing coach Dave Ei­land said. “He’s done his home­work. Ev­ery day, he is here (early). He goes over the in­for­ma­tion we give him, then he goes and watches the video of that day’s starter. He’s pre­pared and ready and started tak­ing con­trol right away.

“That’s what I want in catch­ers, to stand in front of them and de­liver the in­for­ma­tion,” Ei­land said. “If I have to, I will add some­thing, but I want them to see him up there speak­ing with con­vic­tion. That’s how trust is de­vel­oped.”

So far, Me­so­raco has earned not just the trust of his pitch­ers, but the Mets faith­ful in Flush­ing. In five games since the club ac­quired him in a trade that sent Matt Har­vey to the Reds, Me­so­raco has hit two home runs, dou­ble what other Met catch­ers had pro­duced in the first 33 games.

“If he wants to hit a few home runs, we like that too,” Ei­land said with a smile, “but so far, he’s been great with the pitch­ers, which is what I have seen.”

And that is where the Mets may have lucked into a move that could have the big­gest im­pact on this sea­son.

Af­ter not mak­ing a deal for a vet­eran catcher last win­ter, the Mets were go­ing to pla­toon be­hind the plate. That blew up af­ter Travis d’Ar­naud was knocked out for the sea­son with Tommy John surgery and Kevin Plawecki suf­fered a hair­line frac­ture of his left hand.

Even re­ly­ing on Jose Lo­ba­ton and To­mas Nido, the Mets had said they were not look­ing for a catcher, but when they des­ig­nated Har­vey for as­sign­ment, they were able to ad­dress two needs with the move

“Hon­estly there wasn’t any rea­son to not roll the dice, given what we were see­ing,” GM Sandy Alder­son said about the deal for Me­so­raco. “Weren’t get­ting any real of­fense, de­fense was de­cent but not ex­tra­or­di­nary. We had this op­por­tu­nity, it came to­gether and it made sense to us, not that any­thing is a cer­tainty by any means; this ap­peared to be a pos­si­ble up­grade.

“We went for it as op­posed to mak­ing a deal for a prospect.” It was un­likely the Mets could have got­ten a prospect with as much po­ten­tial im­pact in re­turn for the strug­gling Har­vey, who would have be­come a free agent if they had not dealt him.

De­spite the changes in man­ager, coach­ing and med­i­cal staff this win­ter, the Mets are al­ready see­ing the same old issues.

They have an ag­ing ros­ter that — de­spite the re­vamped mon­i­tors and pro­ce­dures — is bat­tling to stay on the field. It is con­structed to score on power and when they have slug­gers strug­gling, like Jay Bruce and Michael Con­forto, or hurt, like Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes and Todd Fra­zier, the Mets have trou­ble scor­ing runs.

So they have put a lot of pres­sure on their pitch­ing to back up their ex­pec­ta­tions and it has not al­ways held up.

Noah Syn­der­gaard has been fine, but not go­ing deep into games like an ace should. Ja­cob deGrom has been pretty good when healthy, but man­aged just one in­ning in his first start back af­ter com­ing off the dis­abled list with a hy­per­ex­tended right el­bow.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have been in­con­sis­tent and Ja­son Var­gas — whom the Mets signed to a two-year, $16 mil­lion deal — has been aw­ful since be­gin­ning the sea­son on the dis­abled list.

Head­ing into Fri­day night’s se­ries-opener against the Di­a­mond­backs at Citi Field, the Mets ro­ta­tion was 20th in the ma­jors with a 4.51 ERA, 22nd in WHIP (1.36) and 23rd in bat­ting av­er­age against (.263).

A2014 All-Star known more for the pop in his bat than han­dling pitch­ers, Me­so­raco has given the Mets a com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion. He has won over the pitch­ing staff and added some power with other big names slump­ing. If he can take con­trol of this staff, it could po­ten­tially be the big­gest move the Mets have made all year.

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