Why Mets’ Ronny Mauricio played winter ball before ACL injury


The Mets tried to persuade Ronny Mauricio to skip winter ball this offseason or at the very least to wait until January before he started playing.

But a significant factor (and perhaps the largest) in the 22-year-old infielder’s ultimately painful decision to return to the Dominican Winter League, where he had previously earned MVP honors, was monetary.

Mauricio is struggling financially, according to sources, and needed the income. One source estimated that a player of Mauricio’s stature who had excelled so much for his team, Licey, was capable of commanding at least $20,000 monthly playing winter ball in the Dominican.

Mauricio received a $2.1 million signing bonus from the Mets as a 16-year-old that at the time was the largest given by the organization to an international free agent. But Mauricio never saw much, if any, of that money, according to sources, due to an agent and unscrupulous family member to whom the player gave control of his finances.

Mauricio played 26 games last season for the Mets after his September call-up and posted a .248/.296/.347 slash line with two homers and nine RBIs. Last season, he moved from his natural position, shortstop, at Triple-A Syracuse and began playing second base and left field. The Mets also gave him a brief look at third base.

There was a chance for Ronny Mauricio, a natural shortstop, to get additional reps around the infield in winter league action. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

As last season neared its conclusion, Mets officials spoke to Mauricio about using this offseason to rest or at least delay until January his entry into winter ball.

Mauricio was in a stretch in which he had played the 2022 season, jumped into winter ball and quickly was on his way to spring training last year.

If there was any potential upside to Mauricio playing this winter, it was to gain additional reps at third base, a position he potentially would have auditioned for with the Mets this coming spring. Even so, team officials thought it would be better if Mauricio rested as much as possible.

But the Mets couldn’t do much in this case: MLB prohibits teams from paying players not to play in the offseason, and Mauricio needed the income.

Mauricio was in his eighth game for Licey, on Dec. 10, when he took a lead from first base in a likely stolen-base attempt. Mauricio never made it far, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Ronny Mauricio is helped off the field after injuring his knee while playing for Licey on Dec. 10. X/@mikemayer22

He underwent surgery last week, and in the best-case scenario will return to the Mets by September.

The Mets will enter camp with Brett Baty and Mark Vientos as the primary considerations at third base.

The need to self-scout

The Mets, with a new front-office regime, want to gain a better understanding of what they have in their own farm system.

To that end, the organization will deploy talent evaluators in spring training to scout its own minor league players. The goal is to reduce mistakes in trades.

David Stearns plans to take an inventory of the Mets’ minor league talent at spring training. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

One that still might bother the Mets: the three-way trade before the 2021 season that netted Joey Lucchesi from the Padres, sending catcher Endy Rodriguez to the Pirates. The Padres received Joe Musgrove from the Pirates in the deal.

At the time, Rodriguez was 20 years old and considered a mid-level prospect. The Mets were in flux as an organization, just months after Steve Cohen had bought the team and installed a new front office.

Rodriguez’s stock skyrocketed over the two years following the trade, and he began last season as the game’s No. 35 prospect overall, according to MLB Pipeline.

Rodriguez, who debuted in the major leagues last year (he played 57 games for the Pirates), underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last month and will miss the coming season.

Endy Rodriguez, an emerging catcher with the Pirates, was included by the Mets in the trade for depth pitcher Joey Lucchesi. AP

Rodriguez might become an All-Star, a journeyman catcher or something in between. If the Mets had a better early read on him, they would have been in position to maximize his trade value or to keep him as part of the catching equation with Francisco Alvarez.

Now top evaluators from within will take inventory of the minor league system for the new regime.

Extra hands on the farm

President of baseball operations David Stearns clearly is banking on contributions this season from a minor league starting pitching crop that includes Mike Vasil, Blade Tidwell, Christian Scott, Dominic Hamel and Tyler Stuart among others.

“I think it’s unique that you can really fill out, if you wanted to, Triple-A and Double-A rotations with exclusively homegrown talent,” Stearns said. “We would have the ability to do that if we wanted.”

Mike Vasil headlines the crop of homegrown Mets pitchers at Triple-A and Double-A. Getty Images

But Stearns also indicated he’s still on the lookout for external pitching options. As it stands, the Mets have Lucchesi, Tylor Megill and Jose Butto as depth options, and David Peterson is scheduled to return during the season after undergoing November surgery to repair a torn hip labrum.

“We’ve all been around this long enough to know how fast starting pitching depth can disappear if you get a couple of injuries,” Stearns said. “I also am excited over the course of the year to see some of our younger pitchers take that next step in their development, get to the major league level and give them an opportunity to have success here.”

The tip’s included

Luis Severino’s theory is he was tipping his pitches.

Asked on an introductory Zoom call this week about his struggles with the Yankees last season, when he posted a 6.65 ERA in 19 appearances, the right-hander mentioned pitch tipping.

Luis Severino believes he was tipping pitches as he struggled to a 6.65 ERA with the Yankees in 2023. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“When you know that you were doing something and the hitters know a fastball or changeup or slider is coming, you think a lot about that,” Severino said. “I think I need to address that now, so when I go on the mound when the season starts, I just need to be patient and forget about, ‘My glove is too high or too low,’ or something like that.”

Even so, Severino – who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 and has dealt with lat injuries the past two seasons – refused to attribute all the blame for his struggles on pitch-tipping.

“I think there were small things that got together at once that I couldn’t handle at the same time,” Severino said. “That is why I think because I’ve had time now I need to work on all those things.”

Source link

You may also like