After another season of many injuries and criticism of how they handle players’ health, the Mets have hired a specialist to address the concerns by revamping their medical and training procedures.
The specialist, Jim Cavallini, a former fitness expert at EXOS — a private company that works with elite athletes and the military and uses advanced medical analytics — will be the team’s first-ever director of high performance, according to several people familiar with the move. They were not allowed to talk publicly about the hiring because the team had not yet announced it.
Cavallini, among other measures, is expected to bring the Mets in line with several other teams and leagues by using biometrics — the gathering of a range of data from players’ bodies — and training technology to improve players’ health and performance.
His position was created in response to a rash of injuries last season in which the Mets’ communication, medical care and oversight of training were called into question by players, fans, agents and commentators.
Cavallini will work with David Altchek, the Mets’ medical director, and the team’s traveling training staff. He will try new techniques and oversee everything from sleep to conditioning, focusing on shortfalls in medical and training procedures.
The 2022 M.L.B. Season
A season that was in doubt is suddenly in full gear.
The director will “allow us to incorporate more technology related to exertion, recovery and a host of other things that can be followed with certain biometrics,” Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ general manager, said in November when explaining the creation of the position. “I’m really excited about that.”
Reached by phone on Thursday, Cavallini declined to comment. While the Mets have not yet announced Cavallini’s hiring, a LinkedIn page that appeared to belong to him listed him as the team’s new director of high performance.
Before working at EXOS, which uses biometrics, Cavallini had stints as a strength and conditioning coach at the universities of Virginia and Iowa, according to the LinkedIn page. He earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science at Ithaca College and a master’s degree in biomechanics at Ball State University, according to a biography on the University of Virginia website.
The Mets’ medical and training operations have faced much scrutiny over the years. Although many factors play into it, the Mets have ranked sixth in games players missed because of injury since the start of the 2010 season, according to ManGamesLost.com.
Despite a team-record $155 million payroll in 2017, the Mets finished 70-92 and missed the playoffs by 17 games. Numerous injuries, particularly to stars, including Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jeurys Familia, severely undermined the season.
In some cases, questions arose about the potential prevention of the injuries. Syndergaard refused a magnetic resonance imaging examination for his sore right biceps in April just before an arm-related injury, a torn latissimus muscle, which knocked him out for four and a half months. Cespedes endured more leg muscle injuries, and was found to be deficient in his hydration, stretching and running.
Both Syndergaard and Cespedes arrived at spring training last year with more muscle and mass.
Since the end of the season, the Mets have replaced their manager (Terry Collins), most of the coaches (notably pitching coach Dan Warthen) and the head athletic trainer (Ray Ramirez).
Other teams have overhauled their personnel after problems with players’ health.
The Washington Nationals fired most of their medical and training staff following an injury-plagued 2015 season. They then tripled their spending on medical and training specialists, added more traveling staff members and resources, and have since won back-to-back division titles.
In October, the Seattle Mariners hired Lorena Martin, who has doctorate degrees in sports psychology, exercise physiology and behavioral medicine, as the team’s first director of high performance.
The Mets had considered adding the new position in prior years, but John Ricco, the team’s assistant general manager, said they decided each time that it was not the right moment.
“You didn’t really have all this information four or five years ago like you do now,” Ricco said in November. “Ways to monitor heart rate while the guys are working out, or these sleeves that measure the arm strength, or recovery devices that put out all kinds of data. Now you do, so we’re kind of copying what some other teams have done.”
In addition to the high performance director and a new head athletic trainer, who has not yet been announced, the Mets might add more support staff.
“It used to be that you had two trainers and a strength and conditioning coach, and that was your medical department,” Ricco said. “Now we have mental skills coaches, nutritionists, sleep experts that we consult with. You have a lot more data that’s coming in.”
This is where Cavallini may make a difference.
“The idea of having somebody that sits on top of all that and pulls it all together is the direction a lot of sports teams have headed,” Ricco said earlier this off-season.
The Mets are also hoping that their new manager, Mickey Callaway, a successful former pitching coach, and their new pitching coach, Dave Eiland, can help keep the pitching staff healthier than in years past.