NEW YORK -- When Lamar Johnson last held a Major League hitting coach position in 2003, the tools of the job were starkly different than what they are today. The video available to hitters was not nearly as in-depth as it is now. The statistics used to evaluate performance were not quite so complex.
So when Johnson reported to his first day of work as the Mets' new hitting coach Tuesday, replacing Dave Hudgens, he stepped into a bit of a new world.
"It's a lot different -- a lot more technology, you get a lot more stats," Johnson said. "But you still have to go in there and hit the ball. That's still basically what it is."
In that sense, Johnson may personally need to transform more than the Mets do under his tutelage. A member of the organization for the last 11 years, Johnson said he preaches the same philosophy that Hudgens did, imploring hitters to wait for a pitch that they can handle and be aggressive once they receive it. The difference will be in how he relates that message.
"Obviously, times have changed since L.J. was a Major League hitting coach," manager Terry Collins said of Johnson, who manned the position for the Brewers from 1995-98, the Royals from 1999-2002 and the Mariners in 2003. "The information available now is mega-times what he had at his disposal when he was in the big leagues doing that job. We just told him we'll do the best we can to get him up to speed."
As for Hudgens, the outgoing hitting coach continued speaking critically of his former employer Tuesday. During an appearance on ESPN Radio, Hudgens said that if the Mets "want a winner in that town, I would let the purse strings loose and let [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] do what he wants to do."
Alderson, whose professional relationship with Hudgens dates back three decades, responded later Tuesday by saying that payroll is not "the issue."
"We spent $85 million and we expected a little more at this point in the season than we've gotten," Alderson said. "I think what we have to do is we have to put a good product on the field, and we have to demonstrate that the team is worthy of support, and as a result get more people out here. It's not incumbent upon them. It's incumbent upon us to change that situation."
Syndergaard's MRI shows no structural damage
NEW YORK -- A feeling of relief washed over Sandy Alderson late Tuesday afternoon, when news of Noah Syndergaard's MRI results flicked onto the Mets general manager's cell phone screen. Syndergaard has no structural damage in his right arm, and he should be able to return to the mound soon.
"I was hopeful that this would be the outcome ... but you never really know," Alderson said. "You get an email and it's either good news or bad news. So obviously, it's good to know that he's essentially fine."
The Mets shut down Syndergaard, their No. 1 overall prospect, earlier this week with a flexor-pronator strain in his right forearm. Though that injury is rarely serious for pitchers in and of itself, it has a history of preceding elbow ligament strains and, in some cases, Tommy John surgery.
Syndergaard has no such ligament damage, though the Mets will continue to be cautious with him. Doctors recommended a regimen of shoulder stretching exercises to fortify his forearm.
"Everything appears to be OK," Alderson said. "Hopefully, this is a short-term disablement for him over the next few days."
Syndergaard, 22, is 5-2 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets have him penciled in to make his big league debut at some point this summer, following in the footsteps of former top pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Mets ask Black to rise to occasion in bullpen
NEW YORK -- Saturday morning, Mets reliever Vic Black boarded a flight from Las Vegas to New York, where he served as an extra man for the Mets' Sunday doubleheader against the D-backs. As soon as that ended, Black returned to the airport, where he flew to El Paso, Texas, by way of Dallas. He was there for less than a day before the Mets came calling again, asking him to board a flight back to New York by way of Atlanta.
Two trips to Whataburger and a few long naps later, Black landed back in New York presumably for good. Replacing Jose Valverde in the Mets' bullpen, Black will have a chance to enter the Mets' late-game mix after posting a 1.45 ERA over his final 17 outings at Triple-A Las Vegas. If he succeeds, brushing off the control issues that have dogged him since Spring Training, Black won't have to endure more travel chaos anytime soon.
"He's going to have to rise to the occasion," manager Terry Collins said.
Black passed his first test Tuesday, striking out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win in the Mets' 4-2 victory over the Pirates.
None of this would have been necessary had Black simply seized the bullpen role that the Mets penciled him into at the start of Spring Training. Instead, Black struggled, forcing the team to confine him to Vegas.
So successful down the stretch in 2013, Black now has a fresh chance to succeed.
"I wouldn't say I ever felt sorry for myself," he said. "I struggled. That was the basic thing. I wasn't shocked by the decision. I had to pick myself back up."
• Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who has been on the seven-day disabled list since May 15 with a concussion, is scheduled to rejoin the Mets prior to Wednesday's game against the Pirates. d'Arnaud finished 0-for-1 with a walk in his final rehab game for Double-A Binghamton on Tuesday, before rain forced an early end to that contest.
• Outfielder Eric Young Jr. (strained right hamstring) and pitcher Dillon Gee (strained right lat muscle) are both flying to Florida on Wednesday to ramp up their rehab programs. Young still hopes to return to the Mets when eligible on June 9, while Gee's status is less certain. The right-hander said he recently aggravated his injury trying to come back too soon and would not put an updated timetable on his return.