JUPITER, Fla. – Dominic Smith let his bat do the talking and reminded Mets fans he’s not yet out of the running for the open first-base job.
The 23-year-old continued his hot start to spring training in the Mets 10-8 win against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Smith mashed a three-run home run off a building behind the right-field wall at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
“I’m finally playing like I know I’m capable of doing,” Smith said. “If you look at my numbers in the minor leagues, you know I’ve had spurts where I’ve won player of the week, player of the month. It’s definitely in there. I haven’t showed it on a consistent basis at the big league level. It’s pretty fun to be able to showcase it like this.”
Smith finished the day going 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored. His electric start to the year is refreshing after a puzzling spring training in 2018.
T?hen, the first baseman showed up late to an early-morning meeting before the Mets first Grapefruit League game because he overslept. Manager Mickey Callaway pulled him out of the lineup as his penalty. Smith debuted the next day and only played three innings before exiting with a quad injury.??
Smith confirmed on Sunday that he has sleep apnea, which explains his tardy behavior from last season.
Callaway said Smith is in a better spot than last year. This version of Dominic Smith is the one he hoped to see before the 23-year-old was injured.
“Obviously the defense is always going to be there and the offense looks spectacular right now,” Callaway said. “He’s putting great swings on the ball, he’s got a lot of energy. And I love what I see so far.”
Smith and 26-year-old Pete Alonso are vying for the open opportunity to play first base for the Mets. Both are having excellent starts to the Grapefruit League – a competition which may come down to the wire on Opening Day.
Alonso is 5-for-14 with a homer, four RBIs, a double, two walks and a run scored in six Grapefruit League games thus far. He’s made heads-up plays at first base and logs extra hours working out on the backfields at First Data Field to continually improve his defense.
“I’m just happy the Mets are giving me the opportunity, the chance to go prove myself,” Smith said. “I feel confident in my game, I feel confident in what I can do on the defensive side and the offensive side. I’m one year removed from playing good baseball, so I just wanted to get back to that and help the team win games.
WHEELER LABORS IN SECOND START
Zack Wheeler allowed three runs on four hits, including a towering home run to Matt Carpenter, with two walks and a strikeout over 1.2 innings. His pitch count was elevated to 40-plus, so he likely should have hurled three innings on Sunday.
Wheeler said he was yanking some fastballs and planned to look at film of him pitching well last season to get back on track. Callaway said Wheeler looked a little wild, but seemed mechanically sound.
“Another guy that is not normally like that and second outing of spring training, working through things,” Callaway said. “I thought he was getting his arm out like he did last year. Ball is coming out great, saw him hitting 99 (mph). Third starter in camp to hit 99 mph. Their mechanics and health are right where they need to be.”
Rajai Davis, at 38-years-old, is still using his wheels to make runs. Davis proved he’s a threat to opposing teams after getting hit by a pitch in the third inning. Davis should have been caught stealing second, but a bad throw allowed him to hustle and take third. A few steps off the base, Davis sprinted home on a wild pitch and scored the Mets first run of the game.
Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil are expected to receive the most reps in the outfield. Keon Broxton and Davis may compete for the 25-man roster, but with the Mets influx of outfielders, Davis is likely to start the regular season in the minor leagues.
DOWDY SCUFFLES IN ROUGH OUTING
Mets Rule 5 draft pick Kyle Dowdy allowed two earned runs on three hits (one homer) plus two walks over just two-thirds of an inning against the Cardinals. Sunday was his third appearance of the Grapefruit League.
If Dowdy is healthy and does not stay on the Mets’ active roster all season, they will be forced to offer the 26-year-old back to the Indians for half of their $100,000 selection fee. Thus, the Mets will give Dowdy additional chances on the hill to get a better look at the right-hander.
STILL HAVE TIMETABLE
Todd Frazier (left oblique tightness) and Jed Lowrie (left knee capsule sprain) both have indefinite returns to the field after sustaining early injuries in camp. Callaway and the Mets cannot confirm recovery timetables on either player at this time.
“They are continuing to stay on their course of what we need them to do,” Callaway said. “I think that at this point it’s hard to speculate what’s going to happen with them from week to week. They’re on that daily schedule and accomplishing what they need to be”