Sitting out the abbreviated season never crossed Seth Lugo’s mind. Not even with a recently born child and the novel coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread throughout the country.
“I live my life to play baseball,” the valuable right-hander said on a Zoom call Saturday afternoon, as the Mets continued spring training 2.0 at Citi Field. “When they said we were playing, I was ready to go.”
While players like David Price, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Mike Leake have opted out already due to a variety of health reasons, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have raised concerns, the Mets players who have talked to the media have said they are all in. Lugo, in particular, seems comfortable with the precautions that are being taken. The Mets are staggering workouts and limiting the amount of players on the field together at the same time.
“I personally have the belief you don’t live in fear,” said Lugo — the Mets’ best reliever a year ago, with a 2.70 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched. “I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on executing pitches and doing my job to the best of my ability. That’s my No. 1 concern.
“We have a responsibility to do what’s been told to us. We’ve had meetings on protocols and safe ways to do stuff. As long as we abide by that stuff, I’m very confident it will be safe.”
The timing of spring training getting canceled due to the pandemic couldn’t have worked out better for Lugo. It gave him the chance to get home three days before the birth of his son James on March 19 and spend the time with his child at home in Louisiana, when he would typically be away playing baseball. He did stay in shape, running and throwing frequently. He long-tossed and threw bullpen sessions with friends multiple times a week. So though the season is a few weeks away, Lugo isn’t concerned about his status.
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” he said. “I did face a couple of hitters during this break and I think my stuff was about mid-season form. So I’m ready to go.”
Though Lugo remains interested in being a starter, the plan for him is to remain in the bullpen barring injury. The Mets’ relief corps, a weakness in recent years, could be strong after the addition of former Yankee Dellin Betances and potential bounce-back years from formerly dominant relievers Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, who both struggled mightily a year ago.
“I’m glad we’ve got so many good arms, so many different options and everybody is so much different from each other,” Lugo said. “I feel like we got so many different weapons. I think our bullpen is set to be really good if we can all stay healthy and perform as we should.”