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Mets’ Sean Manaea thrives in spring start after big haircut: ‘So much easier’



JUPITER, Fla. — One gargantuan haircut later, Sean Manaea delivered much better results Saturday than in his Grapefruit League debut for the Mets.


Manaea, who had let his thick hair grow the last four years — to the point it dropped below his shoulders and bushed noticeably outward — displayed his clean cut to an opponent for the first time since the purge.


“So much easier,” Manaea said after pitching four scoreless innings against the Cardinals in the Mets’ 9-3 exhibition victory at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. “I don’t have hair in my eyes. A little cooler [on the mound].


I just thought it was time [for the haircut]. It was a fun ride. I rode it out, but you have got to adapt and change.”


The left-hander allowed two hits and three walks with five strikeouts over his 61-pitch outing.


In his debut against the Marlins the previous Saturday, he allowed three earned runs on seven hits over 2 ²/₃ innings.


A day after that start, Manaea received the haircut and shaved his beard, prompting manager Carlos Mendoza to tell the assembled media there was a new player on the team.


Manaea’s new look initially alarmed his teammates.


“It’s just the facial reactions of everybody, which is funny,” Manaea said. “It’s such a drastic change.”


On this day, he averaged 93.5 mph with his four-seam fastball, an uptick from 92.6 mph a week earlier.


Manaea topped out at 95.3 mph and overall got nine swings and misses.




I thought [Manaea] was really good in a lot of different ways,” Mendoza said.


“Not only was he able to get up to four innings, 61 pitches, the way he was using the cutter, the changeup, four-seam up to 95 [mph] … it was good, the way he attacked the strike zone.”


Manaea’s outing was the latest strong performance from a Mets starter.


Except for the walks, I thought everything played really well and the slider took a little to get control over it, but everything else felt good,” Manaea said.


In his final inning, Manaea relied mostly on his offspeed pitches — he said he was onboard with whatever signals he received from catcher Omar Narvaez.


The performance served as a good measuring stick for Manaea given that it came against a Cardinals lineup that included starters Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Willson Contreras.


Brandon Crawford was also in the lineup as the DH in his exhibition debut for the Cardinals.


A night earlier, Luis Severino fired three shutout innings against the Marlins with four strikeouts.


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Severino hasn’t allowed an earned run in his two starts this spring.


The Mets have also received strong performances this spring from Tylor Megill,


who is a candidate to replace Kodai Senga in the starting rotation to begin the season as the right-hander rehabs a right shoulder strain.




Incredible so far,” Manaea said when asked what he’s seen from this Mets rotation. “As a staff, we’re attacking the zone, getting ahead of guys, not walking guys, limiting damage


Manaea arrived on a two-year contract worth $28 million — the only multiyear deal the Mets gave to a free agent over the winter — to provide the rotation with a second lefty, joining Jose Quintana.


Last season, Manaea had a second-half resurgence with the Giants after increasing his velocity.


A year earlier, he averaged only 91.3 mph with the pitch.


“As long as I am feeling healthy, I think the [velocity] is going to be there and if I can just keep it where I was today, that is where I want to be,” Manaea said.


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