When Luis Rojas trained at Mets last spring, he was the first quality control trainer in the team's history. His numerous tasks included on-site training, for example supporting the energy provider Jeff McNeil with his move to the outfield and optimizing the communication of analysis information to the players through the front office.
"I will be the source of information for our coaching staff and players," he said one day at the Port St. Lucie, Florida team facility.
The job was another step on the way through the Mets organization for Rojas. He made another big, unexpected leap on Wednesday when Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said the team would make Rojas the next manager.
"I think it fits," Van Wagenen told reporters. "Here's the team. I think it's the culture we want to create."
The move took place in the middle of a turbulent off-season for the Mets. They fired manager Mickey Callaway in October after his second season in charge and hired Carlos Beltran, a highly respected former player with no previous management experience, to succeed him a month later.
But Beltran never made it to the clubhouse as the leader of the Mets. Last week, he agreed to part with the team after Major League Baseball put him into the Houston Astros' outfielder in 2017.
Beltran, who played 20 seasons in the major leagues and helped Astros win the 2017 World Series, was the only player mentioned in M.L.B's report on the fraud scheme. After several meetings with Van Wagenen and the team's chief operating officer, Jeff Wilpon, last week after the report was released, Beltran and the team decided that it was best for Beltran to step down.
Enter Rojas, who was born in the Dominican Republic and has been in the organization for more than a decade after a short career in the small leagues. His family has a long history in the major leagues: his father Felipe Alou was one of the first M.L.B. Dominican Republic players had a 17-year career before spending 14 seasons as a Big League manager. Felipe Alou's brothers, Matty and Jesus, also played in the majors, and his son Moises Alou – Rojas & # 39; brother – spent the last two years of his 17-year career with the Mets.
The 38-year-old Rojas only played in the small league before working his way up with the Mets. He was a manager in the small leagues for eight years before moving from Callaway to the majors last season.
The players praised him for his attention to detail, and he was often seen in otherwise empty stadiums with outfield players hours before the first pitch. In the clubhouse, he was often seen talking to players before and after the games.
Rojas offers the organization a certain continuity amidst the disruption and is familiar with the talent in the clubhouse. He headed the AA class Binghamton Rumble ponies, overseeing the development of the current main league Pete Alonso and McNeil. Before that, he made it to Class A and the Winter League in the Dominican Republic.
Alonso, who broke the rookie record with 53 home runs last season, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that he was "super excited" to have Rojas as his new boss.
The start pitcher Marcus Stroman, which the Mets had bought from a trade last season, also weighed on Twitter and wrote that Rojas was “super easy-going and only brings great mood every day. Beyond the keel. Even more excited for the year! "
When the team fired Callaway, Wilpon and Van Wagenen cited the team's failure to reach post-season as the reason for their decision. While Jacob deGrom, the team's ace, won his second consecutive Cy Young Award and Alonso was named National League Rookie of the Year, the Mets took third place in the postseason in the National League East.
The Washington Nationals, who finished seven games before the Mets and finished second in the division, won the World Series.
"I feel unfulfilled," said Wilpon after Callaway was released. "I think we left a few games on the field that we should have won, and we didn't achieve what we wanted to do, that is to reach the postseason."
In less than a month before the team begins spring training, Rojas will take command of a clubhouse that is expected to compete in a tougher league in the off-season.
At the moment, the team can only hope that Rojas will last long enough to do something that Beltran couldn't do: make a game in the major leagues.