PORT ST. LUCIE – While the rest of the baseball cognoscenti may put the pitching rotations of the World Series champion Astros or Red Sox at the top of talent heap, Dwight Gooden says don’t rule out the Mets’ still-young group of fireballers.
“Staying healthy is the number one thing,” Gooden told the Daily News Thursday, just after arriving at his old club’s spring training complex. “It’s just a matter of staying consistent. But I think if they?re on the field and healthy, I still say they have the best staff.”
Gooden hugged Mets owner Fred Wilpon shortly after he arrived, and then spent a few minutes chatting with Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, and Mets pitchers Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. Gooden, who was at the Yankees’ spring training site earlier in the week, gushed about new Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who was in that role with the Bombers from 2008-2010, and won a World Series ring in 2009.
“Dave, we personally worked together with the Yankees organization, so I?m sure he?ll get the best out of them,” Gooden said of Eiland. “I think he?s going to be great with this staff here.”
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Matz and Zack Wheeler are in a battle to try and win a spot in first-year Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s rotation, but Gooden said it’s not necessarily a bad thing if one of the pitchers ends up in the bullpen. Starters Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are starting Opening Day and the second game of the 2018 season, respectively, and Matt Harvey and Jason Vargas are expected be locks to make the rotation.
“They?re two young guys. You?d like to see both in the rotation, especially (both pitchers) missing all the time,” said Gooden, referring to Wheeler’s long recovery from 2015 Tommy John surgery and Matz’s recovery from left elbow surgery last year. “They?re still learning. In a perfect world, they?d both be in the rotation. But having too much pitching is always a plus. Hopefully it works out.
“It?s a long season. Unfortunately you have injuries and (then) they get a chance,” added Gooden. “But once they get a chance, they?ve got to show what they can do. I think it?s a good thing. Competition is always good.”
Health issues aside, Gooden said the Mets’ pitchers just need to “continue to trust” themselves and their pitching tools. Gooden said he wasn’t in Port St. Lucie to specifically help any one pitcher, and that they were in good hands with Eiland and Callaway.
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“Just continue to trust yourself in development. There?s always room to learn. Callaway, his track record speaks for itself,” said Gooden, referring to Callaway’s time as pitching coach for the Indians.
As for Gooden’s on-again, off-again feuding with former Mets and Yankees teammate Darryl Strawberry, the pitcher known as Doc says all is well between the two men. For now. Strawberry called Gooden a ” complete junkie-addict” in August 2016, and that sparked a protracted verbal battle between the two 1986 Mets World Series champion teammates over the next year and a half.
“We?re fine. Today we?re fine. Tomorrow you don?t know,” Gooden said with a laugh. “Overall we?re cool. We put all that stuff behind. I actually talked to (Strawberry) on his birthday (March 12). It?s like having a brother, one day you fight, you want to kill each other. Next day you hug each other. Everything?s good.” ??
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