Mets Notebook: Strawberry and Alfonzo return as guest instructors
PORT ST. LUCIE — Darryl Strawberry and Edgardo Alfonzo returned to Port St. Lucie on Friday to work as guest instructors in spring training. Some faces were familiar to Alfonzo, the former Brooklyn Cyclones member, but Strawberry is hoping to learn about some new players down in the lower levels of the organization and work in minor league camp.
“Young players are important,” Strawberry said Friday at Clover Park before the Mets hosted the Washington Nationals in a Grapefruit League game. “When you develop through your system, it makes you a winner. [It means] you’ve blended in with the veteran players. Just like we had in the years that I was playing.”
Strawberry was only 24 when helped the Mets win the World Series in 1986 and despite his success, he has been open about struggling with the pressures of playing in New York. Struggling in New York is different than struggling in Cleveland or Cincinnati or even Los Angeles and having played for the Mets and Yankees, Strawberry feels he can offer the right insight.
The former outfielder wants to help prepare future players for the extreme highs and lows that come as they’re developing into major leaguers and he wants them to know that it’s difficult to get to the highest level of the game and even more difficult to stay there.
“I think a lot of times, we think it’s easy to get the big league level. We think we’re just gonna have great years every year. That’s not gonna happen,” he said. “I like to kind of teach them the part of the game of adversity. You’re going to have adversities that you go through. How do you deal with it when you get to that place where you’re in a 2-for-30 [stretch]? What do you do? You don’t give up, you don’t quit. You keep playing, keep pushing through.”
Alfonzo returned to managing in New York last summer with the Staten Island FerryHawks. After the season, he coached winter ball in his native Venezuela but has not caught on with a team for the upcoming year.
Alfonzo would like to return to affiliated baseball if an opportunity arises.
“I’m the guy who likes to be in the field,” he said.
Francisco Alvarez was behind the plate for the first time this spring, replacing Tomas Nido, Max Scherzer’s preferred catcher, in the seventh inning. The Mets wanted to be cautious with their top organizational prospect and his right ankle, which was surgically repaired in October. He went 0-for-1 in his first Grapefruit League at-bat of spring, but it was getting the reps behind the plate that mattered the most.
The 21-year-old has been working primarily on framing and refining the details of his game this spring with Nido, Omar Narvaez and catching coordinator Glenn Sherlock. Alvarez was happy to finally put the lessons to good use.
“I was walking all over the place, I was so excited,” Alvarez said through a translator. “When I was in the cage, I couldn’t really concentrate on even hitting because of how excited I was to go out there to be able to control the game.”
Starling Marte and Darin Ruf are expected to get into their first Grapefruit League games next week. Marte’s progression has been slower than usual after double groin surgery in the offseason. Ruf had an injection in his wrist before arriving in Port St. Lucie and has responded to it positively.