After sleep apnea, Smith's bat wakes up

Mets first baseman slugs massive HR, drives in four vs. Cards

March 4th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- For Dominic Smith, better sleep is leading to better results.

Two nights ago, Smith forgot to wear his sleep apnea mask. He woke up on Saturday feeling groggy and finding it difficult to concentrate, then went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the Astros.

A day later, Smith remembered to wear the mask, which he recently had repaired. Feeling refreshed on Sunday, he came away with three hits in the Mets' 10-8 win over the Cardinals, including a long home run that struck the St. Louis clubhouse building beyond the right-field fence.

"I'm finally playing like I'm capable of doing," Smith said. "You look at my numbers in the Minor Leagues, I've had spurts where I've won Player of the Week, Player of the Month. It's definitely in there. I haven't shown it on a consistent basis. I haven't shown it at the big league level every day. It's pretty fun to showcase it like this."

Through seven spring games, Smith is 8-for-16 with a home run. It's already been a far more productive spring than last year, when Smith missed his first game after showing up late to the ballpark, then lost almost the entire rest of the Grapefruit League schedule to a quadriceps injury. But Smith also has more competition this time around. Top prospect Pete Alonso is enjoying a strong Grapefruit League showing as well, and is a popular pick to make the team. The Mets could also use Todd Frazier at first base if he is healthy, or even J.D. Davis.

So far, Smith has done all he can to hold off those players. If he can continue thriving over the next three weeks, he could find himself standing at first base for the Mets on Opening Day.

"Obviously the defense is always going to be there, and the offense looks spectacular right now," manager Mickey Callaway said. "He's putting great swings on the ball. He's got a lot of energy. I love what I've seen so far."

Bump in the road

Before Spring Training ends, Zack Wheeler plans to spend some time in front of a computer, breaking down what made him so successful in the second half last season. Over his last 12 starts from July through September, Wheeler went 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

He has yet to duplicate that this spring, giving up three runs Sunday in 1 2/3 innings. But Wheeler's pitching speed is still in the mid-90s, and he feels close to rediscovering that form.

"The goal is to get there right now," Wheeler said. "With more reps, it'll figure itself out."

News and notes

Outfielder Keon Broxton was away from camp this weekend due to a death in his family, but he returned Sunday. He should return to Grapefruit League action in the coming days.

Up next

The Mets' revamped bullpen will be on display Monday, with Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo all scheduled to pitch the home half of a split squad. Steven Matz will start that 1:10 p.m. ET game opposite Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez at First Data Field. Approximately 50 miles to the south, Corey Oswalt will oppose Astros righty Collin McHugh in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.