Any professional baseball player, right fielder DJ Stewart says, will agree with the notion that playing every day is easier than doing so sporadically. It can be difficult for part-time players to find their timing at the plate, to establish tempo. With consistent reps comes a greater chance for success.
What Stewart is doing, however, takes that to a different plane. Shortly after becoming a full-time player in the wake of the Mets’ Trade Deadline selloff, Stewart began enjoying as productive a stretch as any Met all season. He recently broke out of an 0-for-14 skid to go 11-for-28 with two doubles, five home runs and 9 RBIs over his last eight games.
“If you talk to anyone, you want to play to kind of get in a rhythm,” Stewart said. “I think that’s kind of what it is right now -- just getting more opportunities.”
This isn’t Stewart’s first run of success in the Majors. As an Orioles rookie in 2018, he produced an .890 OPS in a small sample, then backed it up with an .809 mark in a part-time role two years later. Stewart has always had power, as evidenced by his 26 home runs over 622 career plate appearances in Baltimore. But he hasn’t always enjoyed regular opportunities, pigeonholed as a left-handed platoon player at best.
Now, the chances are daily for Stewart, who entered the weekend with a .261/.342/.580 slash line overall. He, speedy outfielder Rafael Ortega and defensive-minded infielder Jonathan Araúz have soaked up most of the reps that previously belonged to Tommy Pham, Mark Canha, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. (The former two players were traded at the Deadline, while Baty is at Triple-A and Vientos is on the injured list.)
“You’re looking for trustworthy players -- people you can trust to do a job as you go forward,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “They’re doing their part right now.”
In Stewart’s case, he’s found other ways to help the Mets win as well, including an outfield assist last week against the Pirates and a successful squeeze bunt Monday in Atlanta. Stewart, who signed a Minor League deal with the Mets last offseason and will turn 30 in November, isn’t a significant piece of the organization’s future plans. But a continued renaissance down the stretch could result in a longer baseball life than he otherwise might have had.
Opportunity breeds that sort of thing.
“Obviously, everyone knows what happened at the Deadline,” Stewart said. “There was a little bit of a learning period, learning everyone, what everyone can do. Whether you played with them in Spring Training or not, just getting comfortable with everyone -- I think you’re kind of seeing that on the field.”