Q. There’s always been a lot of talk about you guys acquiring a free agent or trade in a catcher. As you look at the ways to improve this team, how much do you think catching needed an upgrade from last season?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think after last season we need to get better at the catcher position. We’re taking a lot of steps with the guys we have in our organization currently to improve. And I know that Brodie is out there looking at external options to help our team improve. But we definitely need to get better.
Q. What do you think about how the National League East is just loading up all over the place?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: It’s going to be exciting. I’m really excited that every team is going to be able to compete this year. And that’s what you want. That’s what you want to come to the ballpark every day and experience. You want to be competing with the best, and that’s what our division is going to be.
Q. How do you prioritize different aspects of a catcher, whether it’s offense, pitch framing, defense, game calling?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think it depends, in my opinion, on what you have out on the mound. And what we have out on the mound, defense, is probably a priority in that position. We want a guy that can call a good game, control our young starters. And when I say “young,” they’re just young in Major League experience. They’ve had some success at the Major League level, but they’re not seasoned veterans. We want a guy that can go out and lead them day-in and day-out, prepare and call a game the right way. And there’s some options out there for that.
Q. There’s been a lot of notes and rumors this last season, would it be possible to replace a guy of that talent level?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I hate to speculate on something that hasn’t happened, like Plawecki and d’Arnaud, Noah is on our team. And he’s a great pitcher, and I’m glad he’s one of our starters. I really can’t speculate on if we could replace him or not.
Q. What’s the health of T.J. Rivera, and could you see him taking the role?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: He’s progressed nicely throughout the rest of the season. He had a little bit of a setback during the season with his rehab and he’s doing really well at this point. Everything I’ve heard about T.J., I have yet to see him up close in game action other than on film, and he can really hit. He definitely is an option for that role that Flores was in.
Q. How important do you think it is to get that one more at least proven arm in the bullpen to go to Diaz now?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I like Diaz, obviously, throwing in the ninth inning. I love Lugo, I love the way Gsellman has continued to improve this year, to have another guy to go out there and put up zeros in the game would be nice to have.
Q. Do you envision Diaz as strictly your closer in the ninth inning or move him around?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: Diaz is going to be our closer, for several reasons. He had great success in that role last year. I would hate to take him out of that role. He’s comfortable. We’ve seen the success. We have a lot of confidence in some of our other guys that can come in in high-levered situations and get outs. I think Lugo and what he’s able to do to both right- and left-handed batters is valuable in that role. And I also think the experience that Gsellman got in closing also puts him in that mold where he can come in in high-leverage situations and get outs.
We already have multiple guys that can come do that and with the comfort level of Diaz closing, it probably makes the most sense to keep him in that role.
Q. How do you feel about the guys below that group? Do you feel you have a couple of guys that can be on your Opening Day roster?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yes, I love all the guys, some of them performed. Some of them learned a lot. They need to continue to develop, some of them. And there’s no doubt that even if we acquire one or two more relievers, one or two of those guys have to be on our team. And they will deserve to be on our team. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about getting to continue to watch their development, because we had some guys that impact the Big League team greatly. Whether it’s in April, May, 2020, they’re going to be very good pitchers for the Mets, and it’s fun to watch guys with that kind of talent.
Q. As we stand here today, is Frazier your every day starting third baseman?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: As we stand here Todd Frazier is going to be standing at third base and getting the opportunity to continue to earn that position.
Q. When Robbie hits an easy ground out to second base, are you at peace with that, are you prepared to for the segment of fans that don’t see that?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I am. I think Robbie deserves the leeway on that. And the reason is not because, you know what, he got out, he’s frustrated. That’s not the reason he does that. He does it so he can play 155 games, which he’s done every year. He’s smart. He knows the game. You’re not going to see him hit a ball and loaf when there’s a chance for it to be a hit. He understands when that ball leaves that fielder’s hand, destiny is going to happen. And so he knows how to do that part of it.
I also understand that our players, that Rosario is going to understand that’s Robinson Cano doing that, and he probably can’t do the same thing that Robbie can do, because he doesn’t have that experience and probably doesn’t quite understand the things that Robbie does when he’s doing it. I’m definitely at peace with it, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue, and I think he deserves the right to do that, so he can keep himself healthy.
Q. You and Brodie have talked about improving defense up the middle. What did you think of Rosario’s defense and how he can get better? He’s obviously fast. He’s a good athlete. But what else?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I thought he did a heck of a job last year. I think he continued to improve as the season went on. I thought he played his best defense at the end of the season. Gary helped him with a multitude of things. So Rosy was always working on something to get better at defense. And I thought we saw the benefits of that at the end of the season. Rosy is going to continue to get better, because that’s the kind of player he is. He comes to the field every day to work. And he listens and he’s coachable. So he’s going to continue to develop and get better.
But what I saw at the end of the season I’m completely happy with. He got great jumps on the ball. He worked the angles really well. His setup when the pitch was coming home was on point. He really cared about that part of it. And when you care about those small things, you get that extra step and are able to make those plays that might not be made. And I’m really proud of the way he went about his business this year.
Q. What kind of player can he be?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think I said it last year, he can do whatever he wants. He’s got that athletic ability. He runs like a deer. He’s got plus, plus power. So he’s going to continue to get better and better. And I think when you have that kind of talent, work ethic and things like that come into play, and he has all those attributes to be the best player he can possibly be.
Q. You and Brodie have both talked about having balance in the lineup, despite him being a rookie or not making his Major League debut, can you envision Peter Alonso hitting at the top of the lineup?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: He’s going to get his chance. He’s going to come into Spring Training and have a chance to make the team. The reason he’s going to get that chance is because he worked so hard throughout his Minor League season this year to put him in a position where everybody thinks that he’s got a chance to succeed in the Big Leagues next year and make our Opening Day roster by his improved defense and the way he works at it. He’s going to continue to improve this winter and be even better in Spring Training. His ability to keep the ball in the zone and not chase as much. He really made some good adjustments last year on all those things that maybe in Spring Training we were concerned about. And he’s put himself in a position to, yes, make the team, and probably hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup with that kind of power.
Q. Who will be his prime competition in Spring Training, is it Dom?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: At this point we don’t know, we don’t know exactly who is going to be on the roster when Spring Training happens. I know Dom, Peter Alonso will be there and I’m sure others will be. At this point I’m glad that we’re going to see the big boy out there having a chance to make the team, because he deserves it. This kid has done everything that we asked, and even more. Everybody I’ve talked to, all they talk about is what a great kid this is and the work ethic. Like we talked about Rosy, the talent is there. He’s got 80 power. He can lay off of pitches, and that’s what you want in a power hitter. And I’m excited to get to see him for more than 15 at-bats like I got to last year.
Q. Frazier and McNeil are the guys you can see playing first base on more than an emergency basis?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think both could go there in a pinch, and succeed over there. Frazier’s ability to play defense at either corner position is going to be very good. And I think McNeil is a good enough baseball player, has great instincts, and he could probably play in multiple positions, even the outfield. I’m very confident they could go there if we needed.
Q. How often do you see him starting?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think you’re going to get to see him in the lineup often. I think who we have on our roster, guys need rest. Rosy is going to need some rest, we saw that last year, when he got a day or two off a week, he bounced back and was more focused and I think that would help him. I think that Frazier obviously is going to need some rest. And we want his bat in the lineup. He can hit. He’s going to put the ball in play. I’m really excited to have him off the bench if that happens, as well, because you know no matter who the pitcher is, you’re going to have a guy put the ball in play and give you a chance to score a run.
Q. Do you think McNeil can play shortstop?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think he can go out and play it. Obviously it’s not going to be above average defense, but if you pick a spot where it’s a heavy left-handed lineup and 25 to 30 percent of the time or 50 percent of the time he’s playing on right side of second base, where he normally would play, that he definitely could play short in that instance.
Q. In your mind right now do you have an ideal leadoff hitter?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think I said it Nimmo was our ideal leadoff hitter, Rosy doing that at the end of the season, and Nimmo seemingly hitting out of place for a while was strictly a development thing. It actually worked out really well, we won a lot of games with Rosy leading off. But starting a new season, Nimmo needs to be lead-off. And he’ll be in that spot.
Q. So where does Lagares fit in that scenario, if you’re going up against a lefty, is there a chance he’ll be lead-off, and is he de facto your starting center fielder?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: He could. That’s something I haven’t spent a ton of time on. I think we need to see where Lagares is at in Spring Training. And that’s something that’s fluid. I have to see what our roster is going to be when the time comes.
I do know that Nimmo is going to be on our roster and healthy and ready to go. And we know his ability to get on base is going to be there. So when a right-hander starts there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to be leading off. Other than that we’re going to have to see where we’re at at the end of Spring Training and see what our personnel looks like going into the season to determine that.
Q. Do you have an ideal spot for Cano yet?
MICKEY CALLAWAY: He’s going to hit third. He’s very comfortable at the three hole.