Smith over 'shock' of demotion, happy to be back

Font to fill in for Matz; Lowrie continues rehab; Mets wish Darling well

May 11th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Upon learning last Friday that the Mets had demoted him to Triple-A Syracuse despite a .333 average and .859 OPS coming off the big league bench, found himself in a state of shock. He went around the room, hugging his teammates, then took the weekend off before joining his new team in Louisville.

Smith’s demotion lasted less than a week; the Mets subsequently placed on the 10-day injured list, clearing a roster space to recall Smith before Friday’s series opener against the Marlins. But it was a wake-up call for Smith, who realized that, given the Mets’ roster crunch, he can be demoted at any time no matter how well he’s playing.

“It’s a little bit easier for me now to get that first one out of the way,” Smith said. “If it happens again, I’ll understand a lot more.”

With Matz and both due to come off the IL within a week, Smith’s stay in New York might be as temporary as his demotion was. But he refuses to harp on it, nor to consider the growing possibility that the Mets, who feature National League Rookie of the Year candidate at first base, might trade him.

“Right now, I play for the New York Mets, and I’m very thankful and happy for that, and I feel like we have a special team,” Smith said. “We’re going to turn things around and we’re going to make a push.”

Pitching plans

With Matz sidelined, the Mets will give trade acquisition a second rotation turn Tuesday in Washington. The Mets hope that Font, who delivered four effective innings in his debut Wednesday in San Diego, can tide them over until Matz returns on Thursday.

As for Matz, the left-hander plans to throw a bullpen session Saturday, which will determine if Thursday is indeed a realistic goal. He’s dealing with radial nerve discomfort in his left forearm.

“Honestly, it’s come and gone [throughout] my career,” Matz said. “It’s just something that I’ve managed. Normally, it would get better before each start when it did flare up. It wasn’t trending in that direction, so that’s when we just decided to take a step back.”

The Mets initially declined to place Matz on the IL because they said they hoped he would be able to return as soon as Tuesday in Washington -- an assignment Matz said was unlikely, given the protocol team physician Dr. David Altchek outlined for him following a cortisone shot. The lack of a roster move left the Mets short-handed this week in San Diego, though manager Mickey Callaway defended their decision.

“It comes down to do you want to maybe, maybe have an extra guy, or do you want to start a sixth or a seventh starter one time when you might not need to?” Callaway said. “So we’re dealing with maybes at that point. You can only wait it out on something like that, hoping that probably your best-performing pitcher gets to start instead of a depth starter.”

More rehab for Lowrie

Lowrie, who has missed the entire season due to a sprained left knee capsule, returned to Syracuse on Friday to try to improve upon his 2-for-23 rehab stint. The Mets declined to offer an estimate of how many more Minor League games Lowrie will need.

Well wishes for Darling

Two members of the Mets’ 1986 pitching staff, Dwight Gooden and Roger McDowell, were at Citi Field on Friday a s part of the Mets’ newfound commitment to alumni relations. Both offered well wishes to former teammate Ron Darling, who is taking a leave of absence from the SNY booth to battle thyroid cancer.

“I didn’t want to just send him a text or a tweet or something like that,” Gooden said. “I hope to talk to him. Hopefully, his health is OK. Guys that you play with, guys that you win with are friends for life. Ronnie’s still a good friend. Hopefully, he gets through this OK.”

Gooden has spent the past year working as a spokesperson for the Hackensack (N.J.) Medical Center, attending dinners and events and meeting pediatric cancer patients.

Feeling strong

Former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool said he was feeling both grateful and physically strong on Friday, three days after receiving a long-awaited kidney transplant. Kranepool, who is recovering at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island, reportedly received his new kidney from Mets fan Deborah Barbieri, 56, of Glenwood Landing, N.Y.


Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland was absent from Citi Field on Friday. The Mets excused Eiland so he could attend his daughter’s college graduation. He plans to return on Saturday.

No more backpacks

The Mets announced a new Citi Field bag policy prohibiting backpacks from the ballpark, effective May 20. Purses, diaper bags, tote bags, drawstring bags, messenger-style bags and soft-sided coolers are still allowed inside, provided they do not exceed 16 inches in length or width, or eight inches in depth. More information on the policy is available at