Hensley Meulens could be in line to manage Mets with Carlos Beltran out

Hensley Meulens could be in line to manage Mets with Carlos Beltran out

Hensley Meulens has spent nearly a decade waiting for his opportunity to run a team. He might finally get that chance thanks to a cheating scandal that has rocked the sport. 

Carlos Beltran stepped down as Mets manager Thursday morning before ever managing a game for the team, and Meulens, Beltran's bench coach, should be in consideration for the job after 10 years with the Giants. 

Meulens, 52, all of a sudden finds himself in an odd spot. He has interviewed for a half-dozen managerial jobs over the years and was among the first to speak to Farhan Zaidi and Giants management about the job that eventually went to Gabe Kapler. Meulens didn't gain much traction outside of that interview with the Giants and seemed headed for a job on Miami's staff, but the Mets called after hiring Beltran and he ended up with the No. 2 job in the country's biggest market.

That has thrown Meulens back into the spotlight, and he could find himself as a candidate in New York and Boston, where the Red Sox parted ways with Alex Cora. 

Meulens has been ready for this opportunity for years. He was Bochy's bench coach for two seasons after spending the previous eight as hitting coach, winning three titles. Meulens is fluent in five languages, is popular with players, and possesses an easy-going attitude that could help ease the transition for the Mets, who all of a sudden find themselves in the middle of the biggest scandal the sport has seen in years. 

Beltran, hired the first week of November, was named repeatedly in MLB's press release earlier this week that hammered the Astros for using electronics to steal signs. He was not punished by MLB because commissioner Rob Manfred decided not to impose penalties on players, but it still left the Mets in an awkward spot, particularly after the Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and the Red Sox opted for a new direction with Cora facing his own suspension. 

In a statement, the Mets claimed they mutually parted ways with Beltran, a former big league star who was traded to the Giants in 2011. 

"We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways. This was not an easy decision," the Mets said. "Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone's best interest for Carlos to move forward as Manager of the New York Mets. We believe that Carlos was honest and forthcoming with us. We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career.

"We remain excited about the talent on this team and we are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future."

[RELATED: Mendoza cowardly blames A's Fiers for the Astros scandal]

Meulens was one of two former Bochy coaches to interview with the Mets this offseason. Ron Wotus also was in consideration for bench coach before joining Kapler's staff as third base coach. The bench coach traditionally is the next man up when a manager is fired, although this is certainly a different circumstance for the sport. It's extremely unusual for any team to hold a manager search a month before spring training.

Right now, the Mets, Red Sox and Astros are all scrambling.

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Gabe Kapler gathered the 71 Giants players, 13 coaches and the rest of the support staff at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday morning, it should have been the official start of the biggest spring of Reyes Moronta's career. 

Moronta likely would have entered the spring as a favorite to become Kapler's closer, but he suffered a devastating shoulder injury at the end of August and had surgery on September 10 to repair his labrum. Moronta will spend the whole spring and most of the season rehabbing, but the first full workout day still was an important one for Moronta.

He was set to play catch Monday for the first time since getting hurt. 

"It's a big day," Moronta said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "Since I got hurt, I've been waiting for this day."

It's a small step, but an important one for a player who is expected to be out until August. The Giants will be careful with Moronta, who holds an interesting spot on the roster. In a camp where Kapler wants every young pitcher to get stretched out, Moronta is one of the few true relievers with big league experience for the Giants.

The Giants plan to be creative this spring, and pitchers are preparing for the possibility that four of five with starting experience might end up in the bullpen going two or three innings an outing. Kapler has been hesitant to hand out specific roles, but the Giants do figure to lock Tony Watson into the late innings somewhere.

After that, there are a lot of question marks, and long term, Moronta still profiles as a closer or setup man. Before the injury, he ranked in the top 20 among NL relievers in batting average allowed (.197) and opponents' slugging percentage (.298). 

A big step will be taken Monday, but Moronta knows he won't fully mentally clear all the hurdles until he gets back on a big league mound. His injury was awful to watch, and it's the type that often lingers when a player starts ramping it up. He said the pain matched the scene, but he didn't realize how much damage had been done to his throwing shoulder until later.

"It was awful pain," he said. "But I feel good now."

[RELATED: How Giants plan to build on submariner Rogers' 2019 debut]

For now, the focus is on getting healthy. Moronta spent his offseason in Scottsdale to focus on rehab, taking a short break to get married. It's a goal for him to follow Johnny Cueto's lead and get back late in the year, if only for a few appearances. 

"It's very important for me and for the team and for my family," he said. "It's important for me to at least pitch a month or so and know that I'm healthy."

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Andrew Suarez kicked at the dirt on the bullpen mound Saturday and looked in at his catcher, most of what he saw was similar to every other bullpen session of his life. There was one key difference, though: An umpire in full uniform crouched behind the catcher.

Suarez fired a fastball, and the umpire emphatically pointed a finger to his left, signaling a strike. 

"It was different, but I liked it," Suarez said. "You get a good feel for the plate."

The Giants have made a lot of subtle changes to drills under manager Gabe Kapler and a 13-person coaching staff. Pitchers fielded pop-ups Sunday, an extreme rarity in a sport where the default move for a pitcher is to get out of the way and let an infielder take over. The outfield drills more closely resemble the NFL combine, with cones meticulously set up and coaches focusing on change-of-direction. But the biggest difference through a week of camp has been the addition of three real professional umpires to bullpen sessions.

The Giants brought the umpires, who live locally, in for their second round of bullpen sessions. They have four mounds going at a time and pitchers could opt out if they preferred to just throw to a catcher, but they seemed to enjoy the extra touch of intensity. Kapler said it was something he did in Philadelphia. 

"The concept obviously is to try to create heightened awareness and add a little competition to it," Kapler said.

[RELATED: How Giants plan to build on submariner Rogers' 2019 debut]

When Andrew Bailey met with coaches earlier this month, one thing the new pitching coach preached was making sure every pitch of every bullpen session had a purpose. The Giants record every session and pitchers can stop to watch video or get the spin rate or velocity on a previous pitch. The hope was that the addition of umpires would ramp up the intensity a bit, but Kapler said it wasn't just designed for pitchers. 

"The catchers are getting some feedback," Kapler said. "The bullpen sessions are as much for the catchers as they are for the pitchers, and you see how much attention and emphasis our catching coaches are putting on receiving. I think it's been good so far."