JUPITER, Fla. — Seth Lugo threw live batting practice less than a week ago, but a simulated game provided a different experience. It offered Lugo, who is competitive, to feel adrenaline and get as close to a real game as possible.
“A little more energy, got a little more behind the ball than (during live BP),” he said.
You can call Thursday’s outing in a simulated game Lugo’s “return” from a fractured left pinkie toe. He said he considers the sim game to be a spring training game. Many times, players will throw in simulated sessions in place of a Grapefruit League appearance.
Lugo threw to six batters who collectively took seven at-bats (Jake Marisnick hit twice). He hurled 29 pitches.
“The pitches that I know should be there — four-seam, curveball, changeup — were there,” he said after. “But the couple pitches that you can’t really replicate the movement in a bullpen like you can in a game, like the two-seam and slider, today was a good day to just get the movement on those. They were kind of running more middle and running in off a little more than the bullpens because you don’t get that full arm action (in the bullpens).”
Probably the biggest highlight: Shortstop Ronny Mauricio, considered the organization’s top prospect, led off Lugo’s outing. He worked an eight-pitch at-bat and did not whiff once.
Finally, he singled.
“I thought he put a really good AB together,” Lugo said. “I threw him some really good pitches. Impressive at-bat. He finally got the hit off a slider. He wasn’t missing anything else so I was just going to try something different. He put a good swing on it.”
Third baseman Mark Vientos, the Mets’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, followed by doubling on the first pitch he saw. Mauricio slid around the tag at home and was ruled safe (though there were no real umpires so team personnel called balls, strikes and outs).
Lugo joked: “Yeah, yeah. He was out.”
Vientos eventually scored on a sacrifice fly. Lugo did not surrender another run.
Unlike in live batting practice — which does not feature fielders or baserunning — Lugo was his usual competitive self in Thursday’s sim game.
“Those hard-hit balls, yeah, I was dogging myself out there,” he said.
Overall, he felt well. He did not know where his velocity sat, but he put everything he had into his pitches. He threw all of them.
He will probably see time in Grapefruit League games next. He does not have an innings requirement for the spring, though.
“I show up ready,” Lugo said, “so that doesn’t really matter.”
The right-hander said he has not discussed specific roles with the Mets. Lugo, who has voiced his desire to be a starting pitcher, values being able to pitch whenever.
A couple weeks back, the New York Post reported the Mets are mulling options for filling the fifth-starter role. One of them: an opener.
Lugo’s view on those: “I don’t think an opener belongs in baseball, Starters are starters, you know? I mean, I’m old-school. I like the game the way it’s meant to be played.”
What if the Mets asked him to be an opener?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll let you know if they ask.”
Lugo was the Mets’ most reliable reliever last season. With Edwin Diaz struggling, Lugo perhaps provided the best opportunity to close a game.
The closer role is, for many guys, the most coveted spot in a bullpen. But Lugo would not say whether he wants to close or could have an opportunity to close.
“ If I’m thinking about that, then I’m not focused on executing pitches,” he said. “That’s my main focus (is executing pitches), especially with this foot. Whatever it takes to command my pitches like I have in the past, that’s what I’m going for.”
Spring training cycle?!
Hitting for the cycle is rare. But doing so in spring training?
Almost impossible. Many times, players do not receive more than a couple at-bats as organizations attempt to get a look at everyone.
But Johneshwy Fargas did the unthinkable.
He tripled in the second, doubled in the fourth, singled in the sixth and homered in the eighth for his first-ever cycle.
As he went up to the plate in the eighth, already 3-for-3 and needing a homer for the cycle, he tried to use the same approach he had from the beginning of the afternoon.
"Just try to make good contact and whatever happened, happened," he said after the Mets tied the Cardinals, 7-7, at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
Entering Thursday, he had played in eight games. He only had 16 plate appearances.
Then he created a lifetime memory.
“He features a lot of tools," said manager Luis Rojas, who had never witnessed a spring training cycle. "Great coverage in the outfield, plus runner on the bases — he stole a bag today. We’d yet to see his ability to hit but he hasn’t started many games so he hasn’t gotten many repetitions in a game, as far as getting three at-bats, four at-bats. He got four at-bats today. He goes 4-for-4 and hits for a cycle."
Rick Porcello finds his way
Rick Porcello said he was not quite where he wanted to be in the first inning. He soon found his way.
He saw it as a positive that he had to work through that challenge.
"This is kind of what this is all about is being able to find where you need to be physically and mentally and being able to make those adjustments on the fly," he said. "Today, it was nice to be able to right the ship and get it on track in a game situation."
In Thursday's game in Jupiter, Porcello pitched three scoreless innings. He struck out four and walked one, allowing only two hits.
He said is not worried about making the rotation — though it appears he has a great chance to do so — but is only concerned with executing his pitches and performing.
The difference in this spring versus others for him: “Commanding the ball better, getting more guys out. Just a lot more confident."