PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At the start of Mets camp earlier this month, new manager Mickey Callaway held a meeting to outline his expectations for the team. The first thing Callaway addressed, he recalled Friday, was punctuality.
"We have expectations for guys," Callaway said. "If they don't meet that expectation, then we have to hold them accountable."
Callaway did precisely that on Friday, disciplining first baseman Dominic Smith for showing up late to the complex. Originally scheduled to start at first base in Friday's Grapefruit League opener against the Braves, Smith instead sat on the bench while prospect Peter Alonso started.
"It's a little shocking," Callaway said. "He's trying to win a job. It's unfortunate."
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Initially, Mets staffers did not give a reason for the scratch. In an interview Friday morning, Smith said he did not know he had been scratched, and that Callaway did not need a reason to bench him.
About a half hour later, Smith met with Callaway in his office, then huddled with members of the Mets' public relations staff. He subsequently conducted a second interview, in which he admitted to being late.
"I'm human. I apologized. It's stuff that shouldn't happen," Smith said. "It's not acceptable in any locker room, no matter if it's the Mets or wherever you play. It's not acceptable. That's why I'm not in there today. It's something that won't happen again."
Just 22 years old, Smith made his debut last summer, batting .198 in what was essentially an audition to enter 2018 as the starting first baseman. Due in large part to Smith's struggles, the Mets acquired Adrian Gonzalez this winter to play first base, which will likely force Smith to the Minors to start the season.
But Smith nonetheless entered camp with a chance to force his way onto the roster. He said he was so excited to be in the lineup for the Mets' Grapefruit League opener that he had trouble sleeping on Thursday night. When asked if his alarm did not go off, Smith hesitated, before agreeing that it had not. Asked what time he was supposed to be at the complex, Smith said he wasn't sure -- only that he needed to be present for the Mets' first morning meeting.
"I'm a professional," Smith said. "This is my job. This is my career. It's my livelihood, and this team is special to me. They mean a lot to me. I feel like I definitely did let them down today."
"He's a young guy," Mets third baseman Todd Frazier added. "He's still trying to understand the game. Can't really have that kind of stuff though. It's one of those things where you'd rather be overly early than five minutes late. He's going to learn from it. He'll learn from it, definitely."
Although Callaway would not commit to putting Smith in the lineup on Saturday, he said the episode could ultimately work in his favor as he looks to establish a culture of accountability within the clubhouse. He joked that he's already used that word -- "accountability" -- thousands of times in his dealings with players, coaches and media members.
"I'm here to help these guys be a better person, as well -- not just be their coach and help them perform on the field," Callaway said. "I take that very seriously. I'm always going to try to help them be a better person."