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Luis Severino and Harrison Bader ready to embrace pressure, challenge of bouncing back with Mets

Adjusting to playing in the tough New York environment won’t be difficult for a pair of new Mets in right-handed pitcher Luis Severino and outfielder Harrison Bader. But the two former Yankees are excited to embrace the pressure and the opportunity to bounce back from down years after swapping The Bronx for Queens on one-year deals.

“The thing that drives me, that keeps me going is the pressure,” Severino said Wednesday at his introductory news conference. “I love being under pressure. I was in New York for a long time. I'm happy to be with this organization, the Mets, because I want to continue to feel that pressure.”

He added that he needed the “fuel” of the pressure and the pressure from the expectations of fans.

“When I have a bad outing, they're going to let me know and I need that in my life,” the righty said. “I need people that tell me the truth when I'm not doing good so that can get me to the bullpen and anywhere that I can go to get me better. I think this is the place."

Bader said the most important thing for him this offseason was finding “opportunity.”

“There's tremendous opportunity with the Mets,” he said. “When I was navigating this entire process with my agents, opportunity was most important. To be able to be in New York and to continue my dream which is ultimately win a championship in New York. I'm looking forward to taking full advantage of it and diving into it day in and day out.”

For David Stearns, in his first season as president of baseball operations with the club, the club is “thrilled” to have the ex-Yanks on board amid a busy offseason.

“I think each brings a unique skillset, an individual skillset, that gels with our team really well, accomplishes some of the things we were looking to accomplish this offseason,” he said Wednesday.

While there is a need for both players to bounce back from difficult 2023 seasons – specifically for Severino, who is coming off an injury-plagued year that saw him limited to 19 ineffective appearances with a 6.65 ERA over 89.1 innings – the potential remains there.

“As we went into this offseason and evaluated pitchers that could be available… it was tough for us to find many who had higher upsides than Sevy,” Stearns said about the right-hander. “And we believe he can get back there, we believe at times last year he wasn't that far away… We know he's working exceptionally hard this offseason and we think he's he's poised for a really successful year with us.”

In looking to recapture the form that made him an All-Star in 2017 and 2018, Severino said there were “a lot of things that I think I was doing wrong” during last year’s struggles.

"I always have problems with tipping and stuff like that," he said. "... So I think I need to address that now so when I go on the mound when the season starts, I just need to focus on pitching and forget about [whether] my glove is too high or too low… this is the right moment to do all those things.”

However, the righty doesn’t believe it was solely down to tipping his pitches. “It was a lot of things,” he said. “Also, I was not focused on the game. I was missing a lot of pitches, too. It was not one thing that I can say, ‘Oh it was because of this.’ Small things together at once that I couldn’t handle at the same time.”

With Bader, the outfielder’s run-saving potential jumped out to the Mets.

“Harrison is one of the best defenders in all of baseball. He can change the game with his defense and he has the ability to help us win games in a variety of different ways,” Stearns said. “He's shown flashes of offensive upside, and we think there's there's unquestionably a really impactful offensive player that we can help get to there… he’s really going to be able to impact us on both sides of the ball.”

On that front, the 29-year-old outfielder agrees.

"My goals are to be sharp, to be sharp every single day… I think I've had two months at a time, I've had weeks, I've had certainly series where I've definitely tapped into my potential in this league," Bader said. "My No. 1 goal is to tap into my potential every day and see how it looks after six months at this level… I know I can do it, I believe I can do it and it’s gonna take work and I’m looking forward to the work.

“I’m gonna force my way into the lineup. I’m gonna force [manager Carlos Mendoza’s] hand as often as I possibly can. I’m not here to stomp my feet about where I’m playing or if I’m not playing. I just know I’m gonna be ready whenever my name is called upon."

Health a big question mark

But staying on the field has also been a challenge for Bader, who was held to just 86 games as he battled plantar fasciitis in 2022, and was kept out until May last year with an oblique injury before going down with a hamstring injury and later a groin.

“There’s no doubt that health is my main focus,” Bader said Wednesday, adding that physical struggles make performing at the highest level all the more difficult.

"I have never in my life been kicked harder in the jaw than I did kind of rolling into this offseason, purely just from an athletic standpoint -- nothing emotional," he said, referring to the sports hernia surgery he had on Sept. 28. "...The feeling I had simply walking around my apartment, getting into cabs, walking down subway steps, that feeling is something I never want to feel again maybe until when it's all said and done and you rip the jersey off my back and I can't play anymore.

“You take extreme ownership of everything. These little injuries we experience, and I play a very physical position, they happen for a reason and clearly something was off. When one thing goes, you try to compensate with speed and something else goes. Before you know it, you're playing catchup with yourself on top of trying to work out your plan of attack to face whoever's on the mound."

While K's will be on the mind for most pitchers, Severino – in addition to talking more with the Mets training staff and staying 100 percent the entire season – has been thinking a lot about catching more Z's.

"One of the main things that I'm focused on this offseason is sleep," he said. "I’ve been talking to people about that I was a really bad sleeper my whole life, so I think there's something in there. I talked to a sleep doctor about it."

The righty added that the Mets training staff have also “taken a lot of measurements of seeing where my power comes from and how we can keep it the same way for the whole season.”

"For me, it's when I get to spring training, how can I stay the same way over the whole season. I think everybody is together, we're talking and we are trying to get a plan to get me through the whole season,” Severino said.

Stearns said the Mets “saw some pretty encouraging signs” of Severino rounding into his top form toward the end of last season and that “there were elements of what Luis was doing last year that were very similar to when he was at the top of his game.”

He added: “You've seen him at the top of the game and when he's at at the top of his game, he's one of the best pictures in the league. And we've all seen that.”

Stearns added that the organization feels Severino has been incredibly “diligent” with his work this offseason and while “there are no guarantees,” hearing the 29-year-old’s “determination to get his body in the right spot” is a reason for optimism.