Mickey Callaway seems to be coming to terms with the harsh reality of this Mets season.
When discussing Dominic Smith prior to the Mets’ game against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw Saturday night at Citi Field, Callaway offered some interesting insight into how he’s approaching divvying up playing time.
“We’re really trying to balance winning a game that night with also continuing to develop our young players,” Callaway said, “so they can be very impactful when the time comes.”
That’s not something you typically hear from those on a winning team.
Rather, these are words more often spoken by managers and coaches and executives who see a season slipping away. Jeff Hornacek of the Knicks used phrases like these night after night last season, as his team went into tank mode over the closing months.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson was blunt with his assessment Friday.
“We need some more wins,” he said.
The Mets proceeded to lose to the Dodgers hours later, a fourth straight defeat that dropped them to 11 games under .500.
And so it’s hard to blame Callaway for looking toward the future — even if he walked back the comments later in his news conference Saturday afternoon.
“From a managing standpoint and the team in that room, we are all about winning right now,” Callaway said. “We want to win today. We want to win tomorrow.”
Callaway added that the Mets’ plans for the future are “something that I really don’t think about.”
“I have 25 guys that I’m in charge of, and I go out there every day and try to put those guys in the best situation to succeed — whether it’s, okay, I know that these younger players need more development, (or) I know that these older players may need a day off or need more at-bats to keep them going.
“(Future plans) are something I think a manager gets to think a little bit more about in the winter, manager or a coach, and then provide their feedback then. But right now, I’m just concerned about winning that night, so it would be tough for me to put a ton of thought into those kinds of things during the season.”
MORE TIME FOR SMITH?
Smith was not in the lineup Saturday against Kershaw, but Callaway expects the young former first-round pick to start more frequently against lefty starters moving forward.
“I think I’m seeing some benefits to letting some lefties face lefties and what we’ve seen from (Brandon) Nimmo and (Michael) Conforto, guys that are going to count on playing every day,” Callaway said. “So you might see (Smith) every now and again getting in there and facing a lefty. He’s done a good job off the few lefties he’s faced, staying in there and driving the ball to left-center. The one thing I have to think about right now is how good Jose Bautista’s at-bats are, and those are the two that are kind of battling for that spot when we face a lefty.”
Bautista started in right field Saturday night. Wilmer Flores started at first. Smith is hitting .300 in 10 games since being called up from Triple-A on June 12. He’s played both first and left field.
Bautista entered Saturday’s game third on the Mets in OPS at .853. He’s walked 18 times in 73 plate appearances, including four times in 13 pinch-hit appearances. Callaway is impressed with Bautista’s discipline while the six-time All-Star has toggled between a starting and bench role.
“What he’s done the best is take his walks. He’s still been patient,” Callaway said. “You don’t normally see pinch hitters be patient, because they’re a little anxious that they haven’t been in the flow of the game, so they go out there with a little more anxiety and maybe chase a pitch or two. And I’m not seeing that from him. He puts together a really good at-bat, whether he starts that night or he comes in to pinch hit, and I think it’s due to his ability to kind of be patient and be more selective and just wait on his pitch.”