Monell and Rivera have that Bronx connection with the Mets

TJ Rivera will not be a part of the New York Mets roster when the defending National league champions open the season next Sunday night in Kansas City. The Lehman High School and Bronx native at some point will be at Citi Field this coming season after getting some more time at Triple A-Las Vegas.

Rivera, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 has been patient and if it were not for a crowded outfield perhaps he would be part of the opening day roster. But patience is a virtue in the game of baseball and the 27-year old does not intend to be a career minor leaguer.

“I just keep working hard and wait,” he said this week after the Mets trimmed their roster to the few that will be a part of the 25-man roster. Rivera last year combined for seven home runs and 47 RBI with stints in Double-A Binghamton and Las Vegas, so there is always a need for that extra production off the bench from the right side.

And with an excellent work ethic front office personnel are holding on to Rivera who came to spring training camp as a non roster invitee .

“He’s definitely making a name for himself and opening some eyes,” comments Johnny Monell who has some ties with Rivera. Monell, is the other Bronx native in Mets camp down in Port St. Lucie Florida and the Christopher Columbus HIgh School product has an opportunity to be the Mets backup catcher on the roster behind Travis d’Arnaud.

So this spring there was this definite bond that grew more with two natives of the Bronx on the Mets roster. Monell, an all-city catcher at Columbus was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round of the 2007 amatuer draft and the Mets like his handle from the left side of the plate.

After a brief stint with the Giants, Monell had a limited tenure in the Baltimore Orioles organization and last spring Mets GM Sandy Alderson granted Monell the invite to spring training. That time was valuable as Monell was eventually called up when D’Arnaud spent two stints on the disabled list and saw action in 27 games.

Though not driving in many runs, Monell made an impression as a valuable left handed tool off the bench, and he was thrilled to be in camp with an old high school rival from the Bronx.

“I think it’s cool you have two New York City boys in big league camps for the Mets,” he said. “I can’t speak for TJ but I’m sure as hell proud of him. I give him a hard time everyday about how Lehman High School wasn’t good but they always beat us. But we always gave them a game. But it’s definitely cool to be with TJ in camp”

Rivera will remain in camp the next few days before the Mets head to Kansas City and he is expected to fly to Las Vegas to start for the 51’s, the Mets minor league affiliate that plays in the Pacific Coast League. There the production is expected to continue as the PCL hitters are always ahead of the pitchers.

In the meantime, Monell hopes to make the final cut. The general belief is that Kevin Plawecki will be served better by starting games and beginning the season in Las Vegas. If the Mets don’t add an additional catcher to the roster, one who they say can add more offense off the bench, Monell will be the backup.

And in baseball every chance is a welcomed opportunity.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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