McNeil: 'I'll be ready to go' when manager chooses

Struggling 2B sits again vs. a lefty, though Mendoza continues to call him starter

June 8th, 2024

LONDON -- ’s hiatus from the starting lineup continued Saturday into the London Series opener against the Phillies, as McNeil found himself on the Mets’ bench for a fourth consecutive game. Ostensibly still the starting second baseman, McNeil has nonetheless been out of the lineup for five of the team’s past seven games.

“I don’t have a choice,” McNeil said, referring to manager Carlos Mendoza. “He makes the lineup, and I respect that, and I’ll be ready to go.”

Although Mendoza has referred to McNeil as “our second baseman” and routinely dismissed talk that this is a platoon, the manager’s actions have spoken louder than his words since veteran infielder Jose Iglesias joined the roster late last week. Since that time, the Mets have faced five left-handed starters and two right-handers. Iglesias has played against every lefty, while McNeil has started the other two games.

In other words, it has been a platoon in the strictest sense of the word, which even McNeil acknowledged Saturday in his first public comments since the situation began unfolding.

“I’m not looking too into it,” McNeil said. “We have a right-handed second baseman.”

Reminded that he has typically played against lefties in the past, McNeil replied: “We’ve also never had a backup second baseman who’s a right-handed hitter. So yeah, he’ll play against lefties.”

Struggling against lefties and righties alike this season, McNeil entered Saturday’s play with a .227/.296/.320 slash line overall. Iglesias, in an extremely small sample of 19 plate appearances, has produced at a .389/.421/.444 clip. His .760 career OPS vs. left-handed pitchers is slightly better than McNeil’s .744 mark, and he is generally regarded as a top-flight defensive infielder.

How long this platoon stays in place will depend upon how long Iglesias stays hot -- and how long McNeil continues to slump. In the interim, McNeil has been taking daily batting practice on the field, which he doesn’t always do when he’s playing every day. Both Mendoza and McNeil expect him to be back in the starting lineup on Sunday for the first time in a week, when the Mets face right-hander Taijuan Walker.

“I’m going to continue to say Jeff McNeil is our second baseman,” Mendoza said. “There’s nothing more to it other than four lefties here, Iglesias playing well -- I’ll give him another start. Jeff will be fine. I know it’s been six days or so since he’s been in the lineup, but he’ll continue to work, and he’ll get going.”