Buck Showalter, all business, not ready to reflect on emotions of Opening Day just yet￼
The Mets skipper is managing his first game in nearly four years. (Alex Brandon/AP)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Buck Showalter on Thursday managed a game for the first time since Sept. 30, 2018. A lot has changed in the 1,285 days between his last time in a major-league dugout, when he led the 47-win Orioles to one last victory before getting ousted by Baltimore. But Showalter is not ready to embrace the emotions of his first Opening Day in four years just yet.
The Mets last December ended Showalter’s four-year hiatus as skipper when they hired the 65-year-old to lead billionaire owner Steve Cohen’s expensive club.
“I haven’t had a chance to get into the tug, or whatever. I’m not there yet,” Showalter said. “Maybe later on. Grandson flew in tonight. A lot of my family is here. So that’s cool. But that’s about the extent of it. Right now we got a lot of things going on trying to stay on top of. Going to look forward to getting a game or two under their belt and get into the routine. I try to keep in mind how different what we’re doing right now is. It’s been a while, it’s been a while.”
The expectations are high for Showalter’s Mets; he knows it, the players know it, the front office knows it. After an exciting offseason acquiring star players, they ended spring training on a low note, with their best pitcher sustaining a scapula injury and unable to make his first start of the year until June at the earliest. A series of injuries followed—Max Scherzer’s hamstring tightness, Taijuan Walker’s sore knee, and Brandon Nimmo’s stiff neck.
What was Showalter’s response to his first real taste of, well, the Mets? Just as he has since he took over, the skipper looked on the positive side.
“I’m surprised it took so long,” Showalter said. “I told everybody, when one happens, you always know something else is coming. It’s part of it. Everybody has been dealing with it this spring. Nobody wants to hear you complain about it and we’re not going to. It’s part of the gig.”
“It’s like I told the coaches, it’s why we’re here and robots aren’t running the game. Your relationships, and the what ifs and the things you prepare for, and all the things that go into it, and the, I don’t want to say culture, but just the atmosphere you keep through these things.”
The atmosphere Showalter has created for the Mets’ first game of the year is all-business. He didn’t even really have to address the team before Opening Day, because, he said: “They were talking so well in there that I was like, alright. I’m done. They handled most of it. They said everything I would’ve said.”
It took Mets players less than one month to adapt to Showalter’s detail-oriented, hyper-focused managing style, one that has led him to three Manager of the Year awards. So no, he won’t reflect on the start of his 21st season as a Major League Baseball skipper just yet. That will come later. For now, he’s got a job to do: end the Mets’ 36-year World Series drought.
NIMMO ABSENT FROM OPENING DAY LINEUP
Brandon Nimmo tried his best to convince the Mets his neck stiffness was behind him. Even after he was not included in the Mets Opening Day lineup, he went back on the field and went through his practices—throwing, running, shagging fly balls, hitting in the cage—in an effort to give Showalter a better idea of where he was at.
Nimmo was able to avoid the injured list to start the season, but he also avoided the Mets’ first lineup of the year. On the positive side, Nimmo’s neck stiffness appears to be mostly behind him. He should appear in the lineup before the Mets’ four-game series against the Nationals is over.
“It means a lot to me, Opening Day does,” Nimmo said. “But you do have to take the mindset of it’s one of 162. We obviously want guys to be available for the most games out of 162 possible. And so you have to keep that in mind. But there is something special about Opening Day. Would love to be a part of it. But you do have to keep the long term in mind.”
TAIJUAN GOOD TO GO
Taijuan Walker (right knee soreness) is expected to make his first start of the year, as scheduled, against the Phillies in the series opener on Monday. He was pulled from his final spring tune-up on Tuesday after just 1.1 innings, having given up six runs on four hits.
Walker said his knee soreness had resurfaced in that outing, following a January knee operation, and he didn’t want to push himself. He has since altered his delivery mechanics and said he felt better in his bullpen.