NEW YORK -- Andrés Giménez does not practice plays like the one he made in the sixth inning Sunday. Sprinting into shallow right field to corral a baseball that skipped off Pete Alonso’s glove. Giménez slid to the grass, popped up, whirled and fired to second base in one smooth motion, holding Eddy Alvarez to a single base.
Plays like that are instinctual, natural -- part of Giménez’s baseball DNA. They don’t show up in the box score the way his three-hit performance did in the Mets’ 4-2 win over the Marlins, but they are every bit as impactful in vindicating the team’s decision to carry him on its Opening Day roster.
“This kid, he’s always a step ahead like that,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.
Most of Giménez’s contributions Sunday came as an offensive engine from the eighth spot of the lineup. Leading off the third inning at Citi Field, Giménez singled and stole second base, putting himself in position to score on Jeff McNeil fielder’s choice with the bases loaded later in the inning. In the fourth, he pulled a double down the right-field line, coming home on Brandon Nimmo's single. Then, in the sixth, Giménez twice showed off his wheels -- once in beating out a drag bunt toward first base, then again in racing home on a shallow McNeil sacrifice fly.
Giménez’s friskiness from the bottom of the lineup provided enough support for Jacob deGrom, who gutted his way through five innings despite battling a blister issue. It was, in short, the exact type of impact the Mets hoped to receive from Giménez when they named him to their roster without an obvious place to play him. Injuries to Robinson Canó, McNeil, Amed Rosario and Eduardo Núñez have since given Giménez plenty of run, which he has used to blossom into an early National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate.
Through the first 15 games of his career, Giménez is batting .333/.371/.424 with one double, one triple, a team-high three stolen bases and only three strikeouts in 35 plate appearances.
“I play the game that I know as a kid and as a professional baseball player,” Giménez said. “The game is basically just, help the team to win.”
For Giménez, the past two weeks have animated a dream that began when the Mets signed him as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2015. As quickly as Giménez began enjoying success in the low Minors, he also found skeptics in the scouting community doubting his ability to hit consistently at the game’s highest level. Giménez’s carrying tool -- his defense -- was never in doubt. But his overall profile was, as the Mets urged him to add launch angle to his swings and muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame.
When Mets infield coach Gary DiSarcina welcomed Giménez to his first big league camp in 2019, he was not initially impressed. What DiSarcina did not realize was the voracity with which Giménez would soak up instruction; Sunday, DiSarcina compared Giménez to Omar Vizquel, crowing: “I could watch that kid take ground balls all day long.”
Rojas called him a “sponge,” constantly asking questions about baserunning situations and defensive alignments. When renowned basestealer Billy Hamilton joined the Mets last week, Giménez tracked him down to pepper the veteran with questions about his methods. Off the field, Giménez has worked hard to learn English in only a few years, and he is now comfortable enough with it that he often bypasses the Mets’ interpreter to answer questions in his second language.
“He wants to know what you’re thinking,” Rojas said. “He’s out there almost being like an extension of the manager, of the coach. This kid is always learning.”
Giménez is also capitalizing on his opportunities. Given that Canó will be sidelined for at least four more games, the 21-year-old figures to continue receiving reps at second base. If he continues to thrive, Giménez will continue to play, despite the Mets’ glut of infielders.
The team thinks that highly of him. Giménez, after all, has given them no reason to think otherwise.
“It’s still really early, I think, for the season, but this kid is amazing,” Rojas said. “This kid is always on his toes, physically and mentally. And we saw the plays today.”