LOS ANGELES -- First came the thrill, of course. When Mets bench coach Dick Scott told Gavin Cecchini late Sunday that he would make his first big league start at second base the following day, Cecchini was elated. Then came the reality check: Cecchini logged onto the internet and learned
LOS ANGELES -- First came the thrill, of course. When Mets bench coach Dick Scott told Gavin Cecchini late Sunday that he would make his first big league start at second base the following day, Cecchini was elated. Then came the reality check: Cecchini logged onto the internet and learned he would be facing three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, widely considered the best pitcher on earth.
If he felt overwhelmed in that moment, Cecchini did not allow the sensation to linger. He hunkered down and watched video on Kershaw. He asked veterans Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce for advice. Then the rookie went out Monday and hit his first career home run, one of four Mets long balls vs. Kershaw in a 10-6 loss to the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
"It's obviously a good feeling to be able to hit my first home run, and have it to be off of the unbelievable pitcher that he is," Cecchini said. "He just made a mistake and hung a curveball, and I put my best swing on it."
If that sounds simple, consider that entering Monday, the Mets were collectively 1-for-29 with 17 strikeouts against Kershaw's curve dating back to 2015. And Cecchini was batting just .249 at hitter-happy Triple-A Las Vegas when the Mets recalled him as an infield stopgap for injured second baseman Neil Walker. Though Cecchini profiled as a bench player upon his promotion, manager Terry Collins felt compelled to give him a start.
That the opportunity came against Kershaw was nothing more than a product of the Mets' desire to stack their lineup with right-handed hitters. Digging in from that side of the plate in the fifth inning, Cecchini took a ball and two strikes, then timed up a 74-mph curveball. He redirected it into the Dodgers' bullpen, where Mets personnel retrieved the ball, placing it in Cecchini's locker as a souvenir.
He'll remember that one. The Mets' first-round Draft pick in 2012, Cecchini was once considered the Mets' shortstop of the future. But his inconsistent Minor League track record, as well as fellow shortstop Amed Rosario's rise to blue-chip status, conspired to dampen Cecchini's star -- at least until his welcome-to-the-big-leagues moment Monday at Dodger Stadium.
"We like our young players here," Collins said. "And he's going to be a good player."
Cecchini became the third player to hit his first career home run off Kershaw, joining Milwaukee's Hector Gomez -- who never hit another homer in the big leagues -- and Cincinnati's Darnell McDonald.
"I just tried to tell myself it's the same game that I've played my whole life," Cecchini said. "Regardless of if Clayton Kershaw's out there pitching on the mound or a high school pitcher, I'm going to approach it the same way. It was a good swing. I put my best swing on it, and I'm happy it went out."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.