Smith, Castro fined; Nimmo, Davis updates

May 2nd, 2021

Many of those in the Mets' clubhouse were unsurprised that Major League Baseball slapped Phillies reliever José Alvarado with a three-game suspension, which he is appealing, for his role in inciting a benches-clearing incident on Friday at Citizens Bank Park. They were a bit more surprised to learn that and also received fines from MLB.

Smith was walking back to the dugout following an eighth-inning strikeout when he heard Alvarado yelling at him. He spun and began shouting back, and the situation escalated. Half an inning later, Castro threw a pair of inside pitches to Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins, but neither offering hit him.

Smith and Castro received undisclosed fines for those actions.

“It’s the approach being taken for any incident that leads to a bench-clearing [event],” Mets manager Luis Rojas explained. “I’m going to say the league is doing what they have to do to not have these things happen. I’m sure the guys were a little bit upset when they got the letter and they got the notice, because you could call it unfair. They got instigated into it. But the explanation I got is that’s how it’s been handled.”

By Saturday afternoon, Mets players figured the incident was already in the past, and indeed nothing additional happened in that game. Alvarado did not pitch Saturday, but he was available out of Philadelphia’s bullpen on Sunday because he was appealing his suspension.

“I don’t know if it’s fair or not fair,” said Mets third baseman J.D. Davis, Smith’s best friend on the team. “It’s hard to just turn the other cheek when someone’s jawing at you when you’re just walking back to the dugout.”

“I figured MLB’s always going to take care of both sides. I know it’s kind of a hard thing to do for Dom to kind of not turn back when someone is jawing at you. So it is what it is. … Am I surprised about the fines? No. It’s part of it, part of the Philly and New York rivalry.”

From the trainer’s room
A day after losing both Davis and outfielder Brandon Nimmo to hand injuries, the Mets expressed confidence that both players could avoid the injured list.

“I feel pretty good, our medical staff feels pretty good about it,” Rojas said on Sunday afternoon. “We’re optimistic right now that both are not going to land there.”

Davis and Nimmo were out of the starting lineup because of a sprained left hand and a bruised left index finger, respectively. Davis described his injury as discomfort in the soft tissue around his middle finger, while Nimmo called his more of a bone bruise.

“The last at-bat, I just felt like my hand exploded,” Nimmo said. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying to gut through it after the first few ABs.”

Nimmo received treatment pregame and continued participating in all baseball activities other than swinging a bat. Davis likewise felt strong physically, saying he retained more grip strength than when a hit-by-pitch forced him to the IL earlier this season.

Still, both players expressed frustration considering they have been two of the Mets’ hottest hitters. If Davis had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .390 average would rank fourth in the Majors behind Mike Trout, Byron Buxton and Yermín Mercedes.

“Absolutely, it’s frustrating, especially when you’re swinging a hot bat,” Davis said. “You’re seeing the ball well. You’re playing well. Of course you don’t want to be taken out of the lineup.”

With Luis Guillorme also sidelined for at least 10 days due to a right oblique strain, Jonathan Villar started at third base on Sunday. Kevin Pillar played center field because the Mets considered him a better matchup against Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin than Albert Almora Jr., who is the Mets’ best defensive outfielder.

Mystery man
Mets players continue to build the legend of their cryptic new “approach coach,” Donnie Stevenson, whom they credited for their offensive breakout in Saturday’s win.

“You don’t know Donnie yet?” Davis said, laughing, when pressed for details about him. “Hey, Donnie’s the man. Donnie’s all about elevating, celebrating, getting your best swing off, looking for your pitches and just having fun, going out there and having a great time, playing baseball -- because I think that’s what we all get away from is we all get paid to play a child’s game. I think Donnie just helps us come back down to earth and play the game the right way, and have fun.”

Nimmo added that Donnie is “for sure” a person. An alter-ego, perhaps? The Mets aren’t saying. Pete Alonso was the first to reveal details about Stevenson, calling him “a new hire” with a focus on hitting approach.

“He fires everyone up, gets their minds right,” Nimmo said. “It’s definitely a good thing for the team. That’s about all I can really say about Donnie.”

“I was as surprised as a lot of people because I didn’t know we had a new hire,” added Rojas. “But he definitely lit up the room. He did what he was hired to do, I’ll just put it that way.”

Asked who came up with the idea for Donnie, Davis replied: “You know I can’t tell you that. You know I can’t give you all the secrets.”

Mystery man, part 2
The Mets still haven’t decided who will start Monday’s series opener for them in St. Louis. The primary options appear to be Joey Lucchesi, who is not on the active roster but is traveling with the team on its taxi squad, or a bullpen game. If the Mets go the latter route, Sean Reid-Foley and Robert Gsellman are candidates to pitch bulk innings.

Jacob deGrom will pitch Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals. Marcus Stroman, who tweaked his hamstring in Friday’s loss to the Phillies, remains on track to start Wednesday, and Taijuan Walker is set for Thursday.