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Smith ready to fight for first-base role

Rookie responds to comments he "didn't win" job, vows to come back stronger
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- When asked about Dominic Smith earlier this month at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., Sandy Alderson left little room for interpretation. He said that Smith "didn't win" the Mets' first base job with his performance down the stretch, warning that the rookie must improve his conditioning and speaking openly about the club's desire to acquire a first baseman this offseason.

"They drafted me in the first round, so they expect me to be a first-round type of player," Smith responded Wednesday, during a charity shopping spree for underprivileged children in Elmhurst, Queens. "They expect me to be a star in New York City. So of course, I didn't live up to expectations. And I'm not going to take that and be upset about it. I know my capabilities. I know what I'm able to do. And I'm still putting it all together to show the world."

NEW YORK -- When asked about Dominic Smith earlier this month at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., Sandy Alderson left little room for interpretation. He said that Smith "didn't win" the Mets' first base job with his performance down the stretch, warning that the rookie must improve his conditioning and speaking openly about the club's desire to acquire a first baseman this offseason.

"They drafted me in the first round, so they expect me to be a first-round type of player," Smith responded Wednesday, during a charity shopping spree for underprivileged children in Elmhurst, Queens. "They expect me to be a star in New York City. So of course, I didn't live up to expectations. And I'm not going to take that and be upset about it. I know my capabilities. I know what I'm able to do. And I'm still putting it all together to show the world."

For Smith, the first step in that process is getting back to the playing shape he was in last spring, following an offseason that saw him lose 24 pounds. Slowly, Smith put the weight back on over the first half of the summer, making his big league debut in August at something closer to his old physique. But since the season ended, Smith says he has already dropped a dozen pounds -- this time, with plans to keep the weight off for good.

Video: Smith named Mets' Pipeline hitter of the year

"This is something that I want to control, I want to get under control and never make it an issue again," Smith said. "I definitely do have a different mindset coming into next year. I'm working my butt off every day continuously."

Smith's weight is not the only reason the Mets have harbored reported interest in Adam Lind, Logan Morrison and other first-base types this offseason. Over a seven-week stint in the big leagues, Smith -- the Mets' second-ranked prospect at the time of his debut, according to MLBPipieline.com -- hit just .198 with a .658 OPS. Though Smith did slug nine home runs in 183 plate appearances, he struggled on defense, despite his Minor League reputation as a Gold Glove-caliber player.

Video: Dominic Smith to continue to develop in 2018

Unlike fellow top prospect Amed Rosario, who also took part in Wednesday's shopping spree, Smith simply didn't do enough to earn a guaranteed job heading into 2018. That led to Alderson's pointed comments at the GM Meetings.

"When I first heard it from Sandy, I wasn't surprised," Smith said. "Because I know. I look on the scoreboard every time I get to the box, so I know what I'm doing. … If I came up here and I hit .400 for a month and hit 15 home runs or did something like Rhys Hoskins, and then he said that, of course you would feel a different type of way. But that's not what happened. So I'm going to work my butt off. I've been working my butt off. Coming to Spring Training, I'm going to try to win a job."

Smith plans to spend most of the offseason working out near his home in Los Angeles, before transitioning to Florida for a program with Mike Barwis and the Mets' training staff. In the interim, he plans to continue doing the type of charity work he did Wednesday, escorting an underprivileged Queens child around Target.

"Stuff like this, it's not a chore or a job," Smith said. "This is what I love to do. This is my life. To see him smile … we had a blast today. We had an awesome day. It's something I'm always going to remember and cherish."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Dominic Smith