NEW YORK -- For most of this summer, Jeff McNeil waited, waited, waited for a callup that he figured would eventually come. Consistently batting well over .300, McNeil believed if he continued plugging away at the highest levels of the Minors, he would end the year in Flushing.Prepared though he
NEW YORK -- For most of this summer, Jeff McNeil waited, waited, waited for a callup that he figured would eventually come. Consistently batting well over .300, McNeil believed if he continued plugging away at the highest levels of the Minors, he would end the year in Flushing.
Prepared though he was, when the call finally came on Monday evening, McNeil scrambled. Watching television at his home in Las Vegas, McNeil stuffed all his belongings in a suitcase. Then he raced to the airport, where he narrowly missed his red-eye flight to New York. He quickly rebooked a slightly later one.
"It was a little stressful," McNeil said, laughing.
The hectic day did not, however, affect McNeil's debut. Entering Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Padres as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, McNeil punched the first pitch he saw into shallow center field for a single. The ball, which he plans to frame and give to his mother, was already on display in his locker after the game.
"It felt amazing," McNeil said. "You always want to get your first hit out of the way. I'll come back tomorrow and try to do the same thing."
He should continue to receive those opportunities. The Mets' roster flux offers a prime chance for McNeil, 26, who went 9-for-28 with a double and five RBIs over his past seven games at Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting safely in all of them. Splitting time this season between Double-A Binghamton and Vegas, the unranked prospect batted .342/.411/.617 with 19 home runs, 71 RBIs and 36 walks in 339 at-bats. He placed among the Eastern League's home run and OPS leaders throughout his time there.
A career .311 hitter in the Minor Leagues, McNeil credited his 2018 surge to being fully healthy for the first time in two years. Now recovered from a sports hernia and a torn hip labrum, which limited him to 51 games the past two seasons, McNeil says he has added enough bulk to turn his doubles into homers.
"I'm having a pretty good year," said McNeil, whose wife, parents and siblings flew in from Santa Barbara, Calif., to watch his debut at Citi Field. "I was swinging the bat well. I was putting together good at-bats. I knew if I did that, I would eventually get a call."
The issue with McNeil is his defense. A natural second baseman, McNeil is blocked at that position by Asdrubal Cabrera, at least until the Mets find a trade partner for the veteran. Instead, McNeil figures to play third base with the Mets -- a position he manned early in his Minor League career, but only recently began revisiting. Manager Mickey Callaway said that McNeil could bounce around the infield, and even the outfield, in Flushing.
"We feel comfortable with him at multiple positions now," Callaway said. "That was kind of a goal of the last couple of weeks, was to kind of hone on a couple more positions, to give us more options."
In addition to McNeil, the Mets called up utility man Phillip Evans from Las Vegas on Tuesday, designating infielder Ty Kelly for assignment. McNeil took the roster spot of injured outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who went on the disabled list.
Evans, 25, made the Mets' Opening Day roster and has already spent two stints in the big leagues this season, going 1-for-9. He was hitting .256/.327/.493 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs in 62 games with Las Vegas, including .325 with two home runs in his last 10 contests. Evans missed a chunk of the Minor League season due to an infection.
Kelly finished 1-for-11 during his brief time with the Mets. He will need to clear waivers if he is to remain in the organization.
Heart and hustle
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, whose quirks include running to first base on walks and hit-by-pitches, is the Mets' winner of the Major League Baseball Players' Alumni Association's Heart and Hustle Award, given annually to the player from each team who best "demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game." Nimmo will receive his award at Citi Field later this year.
Third baseman Todd Frazier will travel to Florida this week to ramp up his rehab from a left rib cage strain. Frazier could return during the Mets' next road trip, which begins Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.