You can’t blame Luis Rojas if his head has been spinning. He didn’t get the Mets job until the end of January, after the club had to part ways with Carlos Beltran, due to the Astros Sign stealing scandal.
And then he had to shut down Spring Training on Mar. 12, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
You would have to forgive him if he had the attitude of Dante from Clerks, and said, “I should even be here today.”
But that’s not Rojas and he’s raring to go as the Mets are scheduled to open Summer Training tomorrow at Citi Field.
“This is who I am,” he said. “This is what I am.”
He is one cool customer, who is rolling with the punches. Today, Rojas had his first Zoom conference with reporters, but these days, he can be considered an expert on the video platform, because that’s how he kept in touch with his coaches and players over the past three and a half months.
“We’re all probably experts in Zoom calls right now at this point,” Rojas said. “So we had all those Zoom calls where we talked about strategy and we had Zoom calls where we talked about logistics — how we’re going to behave with this. We’re covering it all so we can educate the players, so we can educate ourselves and navigate through this and, at the same time, be able to focus on our baseball.”
He used the word “challenge” a number of times during the call and it definitely would be. It would be nice if this was just about baseball and maybe one day, Rojas will only worry about the game. Instead he not only has the team to worry about, but the looming virus. If a player tests positive, Rojas predicts it would take him three weeks to get back into game shape, and that if the doesn’t show symptoms.
For those of you scoring at home, that means about a third of the season could be whipped out from a positive test.
“The whole process, which I’m not going to get into detail, is going to take us maybe a three-week period until the players ramp up back into activity,” Rojas said. “That’s basically what we discussed. We’ve talked about us having depth and maybe somebody coming in and filling the spot for a time, but it can definitely turn out into a competitive disadvantage.”
Already hitting coach Chili Davis will be working remotely for at least the start of camp, due to his age and because he lives in Arizona, which has become a hot spot, but the rest of the staff is in tact to help get the team ready in about three weeks.
It will be a massive sprint for Rojas and the Mets as they need to get adjusted to the new normal.
Besides all the social distancing regulations, there are the rule changes. It’s going to be a different game played this year and that means different managing situations. The DH is now universal and that means the Mets will have a place for Yoenis Cespedes.
But then there are the other scenarios. Which will not just be new for Rojas but for all the other managers in the league as well.
“Definitely, I think every manager right now has the same challenge obviously to get the team prepared to fulfill protocols and keep everyone healthy,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 priority. We are playing the National League East and the American League East, so the competition level is high in both divisions. We have a challenge in front of us so we definitely need to prepare.”
That starts tomorrow. Rojas is excited and ready for the challenge.
Let see how he does.