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Rosario returns to action; OD in doubt for Dom

Plawecki homers to continue hot spring; Robles struggles, but Oswalt shows poise
MLB.com @jonmorosi

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith have been linked for years as top prospects in the Mets' farm system. Many observers pegged 2018 as the season in which the 22-year-olds would appear in a Major League Opening Day lineup for the first time -- Rosario at shortstop, Smith at first base.

Friday afternoon, Rosario moved closer to realizing his half of that prophecy. Smith did not.

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith have been linked for years as top prospects in the Mets' farm system. Many observers pegged 2018 as the season in which the 22-year-olds would appear in a Major League Opening Day lineup for the first time -- Rosario at shortstop, Smith at first base.

Friday afternoon, Rosario moved closer to realizing his half of that prophecy. Smith did not.

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Rosario returned to game action in the Mets' 4-4 tie with the Tigers after missing the previous five days with knee and groin ailments. Although Rosario grounded out in his only two plate appearances as the designated hitter, manager Mickey Callaway was encouraged enough to say afterward that Rosario will start at shortstop on Saturday against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when Smith will return from an injured right quadriceps. While the team was optimistic early Friday that Smith would play Sunday against the Astros, Callaway described his status after the game as "day to day."

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Smith has appeared in only one Grapefruit League game, two weeks ago against the Cardinals. When asked if it's going to be "impossible" for Smith to recover in time for Opening Day, Callaway replied: "I don't know that you can ever say 'impossible,' because things can happen, but it's tough. It's tough."

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Further affirmation of Adrian Gonzalez's status as the likely Opening Day first baseman came in Callaway's response to a question about the value of Rosario gaining experience alongside third baseman Todd Frazier and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera in remaining spring games.

Callaway included Gonzalez's name in his answer, as well.

"Those guys are really going to help [Rosario] during the season," Callaway said. "As many reps as we can get in Spring Training with those guys out there, that's going to be big for us."

Video: NYM@WSH: Gonzalez on his goal for the 2018 season

The Mets have been pleased with Gonzalez's play this spring -- particularly in the field -- despite a .519 OPS. In an interview earlier Friday, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said of Gonzalez: "Adrian's done a nice job. He's fit in very well. I know he's working hard. We were looking for a veteran presence -- or influence, at least -- and unfortunately Dom has been unable to play. As time moves on, that makes it more and more difficult for Dom [to make the Opening Day lineup]."

Rosario is expected to play three innings in the field Saturday. He acknowledged easing up while running to first base on Friday out of concern that he might re-aggravate his leg injury. Rosario said he hopes to be running at full speed again during the next couple days.

Plawecki continues to impress
Catcher Kevin Plawecki hit his first home run of the spring on Friday, as his OPS improved to 1.040 in nine Grapefruit League games. Afterward, Callaway praised the way Plawecki handled Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz on consecutive days, in addition to the quality of his at-bats -- especially against quality right-handed pitching. That bodes well for Plawecki, 27, to exceed his career high of 73 games played during the regular season.

When asked to describe the reasons for his offensive development, Plawecki said: "Mentally, honestly. Clearing the clutter, man. Over the years, it's taken me time to get back to just playing baseball, having fun, and not worrying about stupid stuff I can't control. That's where I'm at right now. That's how I handled things last year. I'm in a very good spot. I'm very excited for what's to come."

Video: STL@NYM: Plawecki drives in two with single to center

Plawecki credited coaches and his faith for helping him to worry less about what the media says.

"Don't take this the wrong way," he said to reporters with a smile. "Honestly, it can go to your head a little bit. It can drive you nuts. That's what happened to me early on. I wasn't ready for that."

Bullpen tales
Hansel Robles' turbulent spring continued Friday, as he gave up four earned runs in one inning against the Tigers. Callaway said the Mets are working with Robles on a quicker delivery that they hope will result in improved pitch quality and increased effectiveness at holding runners.

"Feeling comfortable doing that in a game situation, when you're trying to make a team, is a tough thing," Callaway said. "He's trying."

Conversely, Corey Oswalt's outing gave the Mets greater confidence that he can contribute at the Major League level this season. He pitched two scoreless innings, working deftly around a leadoff triple in the eighth inning.

Video: ATL@NYM: Oswalt fans Didder to strike out the side

"He can pitch," Callaway said. "Give up the leadoff triple, and to be able to throw some changeups in good areas and get weak ground balls ... the kid can pitch. Obviously he had a great year last year. He showed it again today."

Oswalt was the Mets' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017, after compiling a 2.28 ERA over 24 starts at Double-A Binghamton.

Up next
The Mets and Yankees conclude their springtime Subway Series with a 1:05 p.m. ET meeting Saturday in Tampa on MLB.TV and MLB Network. The Yankees won the first Grapefruit League matchup between the teams, 11-4, on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Matt Harvey will face the toughest test yet in his encouraging spring against the team he supported as a boy. Brandon Nimmo, Travis d'Arnaud and Tim Tebow are among the Mets expected to play.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com.

New York Mets, Adrian Gonzalez, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith