McNeil's 3B glove to get a workout

Injuries to Frazier, Lowrie lead Mets to give utility man reps at hot corner

March 8th, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – A gusty and wildly unpredictable wind made playing left field a challenge for Jeff McNeil on Friday. Outfield breezes and gusts, however, may be of less concern to him come Opening Day.

With injuries to Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier, McNeil has been taking ground balls at third base and will start receiving increased playing time at the hot corner for the rest of this spring. He'll get his first start there on Sunday and likely receive half the starts at the position from here on out this spring, according to manager Mickey Callaway.

"To make sure that we’re covered in all scenarios, we feel like he needs to start playing some third," Callaway said. "Probably every other time out you might see him at third and the other times you'll see him in left."

Frazier (oblique strain) and Lowrie (left knee capsule strain) are both dealing with injuries that could keep them off the Opening Day roster and lead the Mets to consider McNeil, along with Adeiny Hechavarria and J.D. Davis, at third.

Frazier just started a running progression on Tuesday while Lowrie has yet to start running. McNeil saw action in four games (one start) at third base last season for the Mets, but received extensive playing time there in the Minors.

"I'm playing a little bit of third, taking ground balls early," said McNeil, who started in left and also homered in the Mets' 10-3 loss to the Marlins. "So doing a little bit of both."

On Friday, the strong wind gave him fits in left field, where he got turned around on a ball that bounced off his palm for a double, and he was unable to quite reach a wind-aided home run by former Met Neil Walker.

"The wind was pretty tough out there today," McNeil said. "I had a good read on [Isaac Galloway's double] and the wind kind of pushed it back over my right shoulder. It hit the palm of my glove and it just happened to pop out. I make that catch every time."

At least McNeil snapped his hitless spring streak with a leadoff home run off Dan Straily in the first inning. It was McNeil's first hit after going 0-for-7 to start the spring.

"I finally got a really good pitch to hit and had a great swing on it," he said.

The original plan had been for McNeil to receive about 80 percent of his playing time this spring in left, with the rest coming in the infield. But Callaway said that will now change to a 50-50 mix between outfield and third base. Callaway said that, Friday's twisted play aside, McNeil has "looked really good" in left.

"He still hasn't played outfield a ton," Callaway said. "What we've seen to this point, I think we've been satisfied with. I think he will continue to get better and better."

Due to injuries, though, the Mets now need McNeil to get comfortable at third, just in case.

"With the couple of injuries, we probably need to make the adjustment, go ahead and get [McNeil] more [playing time at third]," Callaway said.