Mark Canha’s drive to add power after 13-homer Mets debut

PORT ST. LUCIE — Mark Canha’s first season with the Mets could be viewed largely as a success based on his .266/.367/.403 slash line with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 140 games.

The veteran outfielder arrived at camp this year with a goal of increasing his power production — following offseason workouts tailored toward such improvement.

Canha, 34, was at his best in that realm in 2019, when he hit 26 homers for Oakland and produced a .517 slugging percentage.

Canha spoke recently to Post Sports+ about his mission offensively for this season. Canha owns a .227/.277/.273 slash line this spring without a homer in 44 at-bats.

How is it going in trying to increase your power?

Mark Canha: Not good so far — a big goose egg up there in the home run column (laughing). But it’s going better. It always takes me a long time to find my swing and my path and my legs and everything. And I feel lately there’s been a nice step forward and I was able to lift a couple of balls.

The thing for me is if I feel I’m behind the ball, I feel I can lift it, and that is usually a body position/timing thing. And lately I’ve done a real good job of staying in the moment and finding that position that allowed me to stay behind the ball. That’s just the key, getting the ball up in the air the right way, not popups, with a good trajectory and barreling balls.

Mark Canha worked out this offseason with the goal of getting stronger and hitting for more power in 2023.
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Are you still doing the same workouts you started over the winter?

MC: I’m still very much getting after it. The lower body as much as the upper body. For me, it’s more about my strength and just allows me to feel good … it actually feels better when I’m stronger and have my core strength.

The key is to feel good when you go out there, so I think staying on top of that stuff gives you energy and keeps you in a consistent space, too. It’s like anything: Lifting weights is rehearsing to be powerful. It’s like taking reps in the cage, so I feel like the more I’m able to do that, the power and explosiveness stays with you. If you get away from it, it can make you feel a little lethargic. It’s like a body in motion stays in motion.

I feel like the more I’m getting after it, the more everything as an athlete kind of gets better. It’s a holistic thing. I feel springier, I feel more energetic, I feel like I can replicate what I’m working on in spring training.

What’s a realistic target for your home-run total this season?

MC: Oh God, I don’t know. I don’t think I have a good answer for that. My career high is 26, but I have only hit over 20 once. I would love to hit 20. That would be really good, but we’ll see.

Mark Canha rounds the bases during a Grapefruit League game with the Mets.
Mark Canha was reluctant to establish a numerical home run goal for this season, but did say, “I would love to hit 20.”

I try not to evaluate myself on one number like that. You have to see how it goes. If I’m hitting a bunch of doubles, that’s great, too, so I’m not going to sit here and say, “I would really like to hit 20 home runs.” If I would, that would be great, but you just want to feel like you are driving the ball and doing damage. You want to be one of those players in the lineup that the other team is afraid of all the time. You need to be that threat, and that’s just what I want.

It sounds like you are saying it’s not all about home runs. Would that be an accurate assessment?

MC: You have to see how the year goes. I don’t harp on the homers. It’s a difficult way to evaluate yourself. It mentally can kind of affect you, too, if you’re so caught up in homers. Let’s focus on winning games here, not me hitting homers, and that will take care of itself. As long as I’m doing damage and getting extra-base hits, I’m good with that.

Leiter’s nods after Hall of Fame nod

Al Leiter has begun preparing for his Mets Hall of Fame induction, which is scheduled for June 3.

Howard Johnson and Mets voices Gary Cohen and Howie Rose will join Leiter in this year’s class.

Leiter — who arrived at camp earlier this week as a guest pitching instructor — said he has asked former general manager Steve Phillips, who brought him to the Mets in a 1998 trade, to attend. Leiter also wants Bobby Valentine at the event, but the former Mets manager was non-committal because of his job as an Angels studio analyst. Valentine relocated to Southern California last year.

Al Leiter of the New York Mets during Game Five of the World Series against the New York Yankees on October 26, 2000 at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.
Al Leiter credits former manager Bobby Valentine’s faith in him, especially in the 2000 World Series, for the success he had with the Mets.
Sporting News via Getty Images

“I told Bobby that I don’t want to make reference to him in a speech from afar,” Leiter said. “Often in life we don’t recognize and give credit to people who give us an opportunity to put ourselves in a position to succeed or fail, and sports is the ultimate, right? By Bobby’s confidence, trust and faith in me doing my thing for seven years here — and he was here five of my seven — he put me in a position to create unbelievable baseball memories and moments.”

Leiter cited Valentine’s decision to let the left-hander pitch a complete game in the 1999 wild card tiebreaker in Cincinnati. The left-hander finished with a two-hit shutout in the defining game of his career, sending the Mets to the playoffs.

Valentine also gave Leiter the ball for Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees in 2000. In Game 5, Valentine left Leiter in the game to throw 142 pitches. The Yankees took the lead in that series clincher on Luis Sojo’s ninth-inning dribbler through the middle.

“If [Valentine] didn’t have that faith in me, I don’t know if I would be going into the Mets Hall of Fame,” Leiter said.

This ‘ghost’ story is a bit scary

It’s not a great sign that Kodai Senga has refrained from throwing his signature “ghost” forkball in his past two starts because he is concerned about starting the season in optimal health.

The pitch likely contributed to the tendonitis Senga had at the base of his right index finger two weeks ago that caused him to miss a scheduled start.

Port St. Lucie, Fl.: New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga throws during a baseball spring training workout, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on February 16, 2023.
The larger size of the ball in Major League Baseball may be affecting Mets rookie Kodai Senga’s ability to throw his signature “ghost” forkball.
Newsday via Getty Images

Senga has indicated the larger baseball used in the U.S. is a challenge.

Also worth watching is whether Carlos Carrasco returns to the mound Tuesday from what has been termed “elbow maintenance” by manager Buck Showalter.

What it all means is as tempted as the Mets might be to try Tylor Megill in the bullpen, the right-hander is needed as rotation depth if he doesn’t crack the starting five in his competition with David Peterson for Jose Quintana’s spot.

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