PORT ST. LUCIE – The repercussions of Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie sustaining early spring training injuries, with slow recoveries to boot, are finally starting to surface.
Jeff McNeil will split time between third base and left field for the remainder of his spring training games, manager Mickey Callaway announced Friday after the Mets’ 10-3 loss to the Marlins.
The Mets’ original plan was for McNeil to play 80 percent of his Grapefruit League games in left field. The 26-year-old is a natural infielder, but the Mets wanted McNeil to feel comfortable in the outfield so that he would be able to get consistent at-bats during the regular season.
A month since Callaway said McNeil will see most of his playing time in the outfield, a lot has changed.
Lowrie was the first Met to hit the spring injured list with a left knee capsule sprain. Next was Frazier, the veteran third baseman, with left oblique tightness. With less than three weeks until Opening Day, neither player has been involved in baseball-related activities since their injuries.
McNeil’s transition from left field to third base also comes as J.D. Davis, who has looked good at the plate, is struggling in the infield. Davis has a pair of fielding errors and appears hesitant on grounders.
Davis is hitting .276 with a homer, seven RBIs, two doubles and five runs scored across nine games. The 25-year-old’s production at the plate could allow Davis to make the Opening Day roster as a utility-bench player if his fielding improves.
On Thursday, the Mets officially added Carlos Gomez to the long list of outfielders competing for a spot on the 25-man roster. Gomez joins Keon Broxton, Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Rymer Liriano and Tim Tebow as players expected to receive more reps in the outfield this spring.
McNeil hit his first dinger of spring training on Friday, and the Mets will find a way to pencil his name into as many lineups as they can. He crushed a leadoff homer off veteran right-hander Dan Straily and deposited the long ball on the green lawn in right field.
“Finally got a really good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” McNeil said.
Callaway said, at this point in spring training, he can’t say for certain if Lowrie or Frazier will be ready by Opening Day. But the decision to get McNeil more reps at the hot corner is the Mets backup plan for a scenario in which both injured players are still on the mend come March 28.
“We’re going to make sure we’re prepared if that happens,” Callaway said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re getting (McNeil) more reps at third.”
DON’T YOU KW
In his sixth game donning blue and orange, Robinson Cano hit his first home run as a Met. It was a solo shot off Straily in the fourth inning. Cano celebrated by lifting his arm and pointing a finger toward the sky as he rounded first base.
“It feels good but it doesn’t count here,” Cano quipped about spring statistics.
The Gold Glove second baseman said he’s been having a lot of quality at-bats this spring. Cano is batting .471 with three RBIs and two runs scored over six games.
“Being here in a new team, sometimes it takes time to adjust,” Cano said. “But the way they’ve been here made me feel like part of the family right away. Having a good start has meant a lot to me.”
SYNDERGAARD’S SPRING STEP
Noah Syndergaard gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits (two homers) and struck out eight through four innings on Friday. It was Syndergaard’s third start of spring and he said he was content with the outing after neglecting to give up walks to the Marlins.