Seeking offensive help, Mets call on Conforto
Outfielder, No. 3-ranked Mets prospect, collects RBI in big league debut
NEW YORK -- Michael Conforto arrived at Citi Field shortly before 4 p.m. ET Friday, his arrival documented in all the usual ways. A camera popped as Conforto stepped from the back seat of the SUV that whisked him up the Jersey Turnpike from Trenton, where he spent the morning as a Minor Leaguer. More photographers trailed him around the stadium's bowels.
A few minutes later, multiple Mets officials insisted they do not expect or envision Conforto to be the savior for their flagging offense. But in calling him straight from Double-A Binghamton and slotting him seventh in Friday's lineup against the Dodgers, the Mets admitted that they are expecting a jolt.
"The team has not been scoring runs," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We need to change the offensive face of the team, as well as the results."
Nothing changed immediately during a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers, in which Conforto finished 0-for-3 with an RBI groundout. But the Mets hope that some combination of Conforto's promotion, Friday's reported trade for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and the healthy returns of Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright will transform them.
First among those plans was the arrival of Conforto, the Mets' No. 3 prospect and their most-heralded offensive rookie since d'Arnaud. The team placed Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list to make room for him, ending the veteran's three-week struggle to play through a left knee injury.
"Indescribable," was how Conforto summed the news, which he learned while lifting weights with his Double-A teammates. "Just the culmination of all my dreams growing up. It's all I've wanted to do since I picked up a bat and a ball since I was who-knows-how-old."
Conforto, 22, was hitting .312 with five home runs in 45 games for Binghamton, his only experience above Class A ball. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Conforto is a .308 hitter with 15 home runs in 133 career Minor League games, exclusively as a left fielder. He went 2-for-2 in the Futures Game in Cincinnati with an outfield assist, splashing his face across national radar screens with that performance.
Despite such successes, the Mets had been hesitant to call up Conforto given his lack of experience at the upper Minors. It took the confluence of Conforto's hot bat, Cuddyer's injury and the Mets' lack of alternatives for a roster move to happen; when it did, Conforto called it a "dream," reveling in the standing ovation that Citi Field's crowd gave him.
"He's very mature," Alderson said. "He's handled a lot of things very well, including the recent attention he's received from the media, which probably accelerated from the Futures Game, and has continued to this point with all the speculation. I think he's handled that very well. Secondly, he has a very sound, fundamental hitting approach."
In the weeks leading up to Conforto's promotion, the Mets poked around the trade market, but did not find any suitable matches until shortly after Conforto's promotion, when they agreed to terms for Johnson and Uribe. The club also gave Cuddyer significant rest and medical attention, to no avail.
In the end, with no obvious stopgaps left at Triple-A and the Atlanta trade not yet consummated, they turned to the one person in their organization that they felt could make a difference.
"He's here because there's an opportunity here," manager Terry Collins said. "As we looked through the organization, we thought he was the guy who could fill that spot. I told him his job is to come here and play his game, and not think for one instant that he's the savior here. This is a big man's game. And one guy, just one guy, is not going to be the difference."