Mets notes: An adjustment for Francisco Alvarez; a change for Carlos Beltrán

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — After batting practice on a recent afternoon at Clover Park, New York Mets co-hitting coach Eric Chavez walked over to Francisco Alvarez, wanting to stress a point. The conversation lasted several minutes.

The way Chavez saw it, Alvarez looked too methodical with each swing, perhaps overthinking adjustments he had worked on during the offseason.

Chavez said he told Alvarez: “OK, games are starting, let’s ramp this up. At some point, you have to trust the work and just let it go instead of feeling for it every swing, every swing, every swing. Let’s stop thinking now. Muscle memory is there. So now let’s let it eat.”

The scene offered a glimpse of Chavez in his element. He served as the Mets’ lead hitting coach in 2022. He moved to bench coach in 2023. Now he’s back as a hitting coach.

Chavez said he feels like he’s in the right spot, working alongside Jeremy Barnes, who has held a hitting coach job with the Mets for the last three seasons and has a strong reputation in the industry, particularly for his knowledge of analytics. A lot went wrong for the Mets in 2023, including their OPS dipping from .744 (sixth in baseball) in 2022 to .723 (15th).

A six-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base during his playing days, Chavez brings valuable feel and dialogue — he knows hitting, and he breaks down the details behind it in digestible ways. He should be able to relate to and help the Mets’ veterans as well as their key young players, including Alvarez.

Over the last handful of months, Alvarez has worked with Barnes on some swing adjustments. Essentially, coaches want Alvarez to cut down on the loopiness of his swing (Brett Baty and Mark Vientos have tried to make similar adjustments). The focus is on Alvarez’s first move at the plate. The desired results include Alvarez producing more backspin and line drives.

While Alvarez’s power looks undeniable — he hit a home run Sunday in his first game of spring training — he has room for improvement regarding consistency and batted-ball figures. Last year, A

Among catchers with 200 plate appearances last season, only Nick Fortes (13.2 percent) had a lower rate of line drives than Alvarez (13.1 percent).

“Just in batting practice and what he creates in the cage,” Chavez said, “we’ve seen a dramatic difference in what he’s producing.”

Carlos Beltrán, who works in the Mets’ front office, will be around the major-league roster a lot this year as opposed to observing the minor leaguers, which he did a lot of last year. Those around the Mets — players and coaches — interpreted the change as great news.

Around the batting cage on Sunday, Beltrán talked with a couple of staffers about how he identified himself as a pull hitter and how that impacted his approach. From Beltrán’s view, if he went the other way, it felt as if he was just pushing the ball. Still, he told staffers, including Chavez, that he needed to work on hitting the ball the other way so it could make him better at pulling the ball. In other words, if he thought about pulling all the time, he would’ve just yanked a lot more balls foul, he said. Hearing that assessment, Chavez’s eyes lit up and he said, “Yes.”

“It’s nice having him here,” Chavez said later. “It’s just a different way of thinking that gives these guys some good ideas to think about.”

Jorge López has impressed some team officials, leading them to believe the veteran right-hander at least looks capable of claiming a vital role in the bullpen. Lopez kept his entire repertoire from his time as a starting pitcher, even though those days ended a few years ago. Team evaluators checked off Lopez’s two-seamer, slider and changeup as pitches that appeared sharp. Some rival scouts have gone as far as to say Lopez’s pure stuff ranks near the top in the Mets’ bullpen — it’s a question of whether he can harness it and locate pitches.

“It’s only been some bullpen sessions and a couple of live BPs, but I see a lot of confidence and conviction behind every single pitch,” Mets bullpen coach José Rosado said. “That’s something we are all excited about. I really like where he’s at, and I think he’s in a good spot.”

López is scheduled to appear in a Grapefruit League game on Tuesday.

Luis Severino faced batters for the first time this spring during a batting practice session and said he was hitting 96 mph. He threw around 30 pitches while facing Starling Marte, Pete Alonso, Harrison Bader and Brandon Nimmo. Severino usually sits around that velocity at this point of the year. Since last month, some Mets officials have expressed confidence about Severino’s health and have liked the way he worked ahead of reporting to camp. Severino’s importance quickly increased this spring after the news that Kodai Senga, the Mets’ presumed No. 1 starter, was dealing with a shoulder injury.

Tylor Megill said he didn’t throw many splitters during his start on Saturday because he wasn’t ahead in the count enough times. Of Megill’s 39 pitches, only a few were splitters, he said. Mets officials like the new pitch a lot, but a new tool doesn’t matter much if it can’t be put to use. In Megill’s first inning, he threw too many noncompetitive pitches, or balls too far out of the zone to entice batters. Things looked sharper in his second inning, however, when he was able to land his slider and utilize his fastball in the zone.

Megill stands out as a favorite to claim the spot in the rotation Senga has temporarily vacated because of injury. Senga will be shut down for the next three weeks.  Among the other names to keep in mind for that spot is Jose Butto, who allowed three singles while recording a strikeout in two clean innings on Sunday.

Senga’s injury may increase the need for the Mets to care more about length from relievers. Senga is the Mets’ top starter, so any replacement will likely supply less in terms of quality and quantity. The Mets essentially have two spots open in their bullpen. Among the bubble options who can cover multiple innings: Phil Bickford, Michael Tonkin, Reed Garrett and Sean Reid-Foley.

The Mets are building up Butto as a starter, but they may also look to utilize him as a multi-inning reliever, Mendoza said.

Even without Senga, the Mets are having discussions about utilizing a six-man rotation at some point in April. The Mets don’t need to immediately do that once the season starts, but they face a stretch of 13 consecutive games starting April 5.

Nate Lavender faces long odds of cracking the Mets’ roster for Opening Day, but he’s a reliever to keep in mind for the not-so-distant future.

Lavender struck out all three batters he faced Saturday despite not throwing a pitch harder than 92.7 mph. He uses the deception similar to the New York Yankees’ Nestor Cortes. But a big part of Lavender’s success has to do with extension, which quantifies exactly how much closer a pitcher’s release point is to home plate. Usually, Lavender said, he can get around 7 inches of extension, which would rank among the best. On Saturday, he said, he was getting around 7.4 inches, which would qualify as elite. For instance, the Reds’ Brent Suter also doesn’t throw hard but averaged 7.4 inches of extension, which ranked in the top 1 percent of MLB.

Lavender’s next appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

Reliever Shintaro Fujinami flew back to Japan to deal with a family matter, according to the Mets. Club officials expect his absence to last around one week. He has also been waiting on a work visa. The team still expects him to have plenty of time to ramp up for opening day.

(Photo of Francisco Alvarez: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

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