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Alonso making history with early-season offense

April 10, 2019

NEW YORK -- That the Mets were able to make Tuesday's 14-8 loss to the Twins competitive in the later innings was largely a credit to Pete Alonso, whose rookie season is becoming historic. Alonso bashed two home runs -- his fourth and fifth of the season -- to enter

NEW YORK -- That the Mets were able to make Tuesday's 14-8 loss to the Twins competitive in the later innings was largely a credit to Pete Alonso, whose rookie season is becoming historic.

Alonso bashed two home runs -- his fourth and fifth of the season -- to enter a sort of rarified air. He is the first player since at least 1900 to accumulate 11 extra-base hits over his first 10 career games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and one of eight in Major League history with at least 14 RBIs in that same window. With 15 hits, Alonso matched Mike Vail for the most by a Mets player through 10 career games, while becoming the first Mets rookie since Benny Agbayani in 1999 to homer in three consecutive games.

“It’s really cool, but at the same time, losing ain’t fun,” Alonso said. “I wish we were on the other side of it.”

In what has become typical Alonso fashion, his first home run went to the right-field corner, while his second, a two-run shot, traveled a projected 397 feet to right-center. Of Alonso’s 11 extra-base hits, five have gone to the opposite field.

“That’s one of my strengths,” Alonso said. “That’s one thing that I want to continue to do."

A new backup shortstop

Over the winter, the Mets told Todd Frazier they wanted to expose him regularly to first base, since Jed Lowrie was taking over Frazier’s natural position at third. Turns out the Mets had additional plans for Frazier’s versatility.

Frazier continued his Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday with a four-inning cameo at shortstop, a position the team wants him to be comfortable playing in a backup role. When Frazier returns from the strained left oblique that has sidelined him since mid-February, he will likely take Luis Guillorme’s roster spot. That will leave the Mets without much shortstop experience on their roster besides starter Amed Rosario.

“We feel that just to maximize our roster, if we need to have an extra pitcher or something like that, we have to have another guy that might be able to play short at some point,” New York manager Mickey Callaway said. “So we want to get him as many reps as possible there, [while] still getting him prepared to come up and be a third baseman like he traditionally is.”

The position is not entirely foreign to Frazier. He actually began his professional career as a full-time shortstop in 2007, though he has not appeared there regularly since ‘08. Frazier played at short twice in ‘11 during his rookie year with the Reds, and not at any level since.

Jeff McNeil is also capable of playing shortstop in a pinch, though he is not a natural at the position. The only other Met with meaningful experience there is Jed Lowrie, who will spend most of his time at third base upon his return from his left knee injury.

Mostly, this is emergency planning. The Mets fully expect Rosario to start 145-plus games at short. If a significant injury prevents that from happening, the Mets would likely call up Adeiny Hechavarria to start at the position.

Still, versatility can only help Frazier, who may struggle to see regular playing time once he returns. Tuesday marked Frazier’s fifth Minor League rehab game on an assignment that will expire April 23. The Mets must activate him no later than the following day, though he stands a strong chance of rejoining the team before then -- perhaps even as soon as the Mets’ upcoming road trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia.

“That’s the one thing that we want to do this year is make sure that these guys, when they come up here, they’re 100 percent ready,” Callaway said. “We have enough depth and we have enough good players where we have that luxury that we probably didn’t have in the past. Eighty percent of a player last year probably was our best option. We don’t feel like that’s the case anymore, so we want these guys to be 100 percent when they come up here.”

Making progress

Further from a return is Lowrie, who took on-field batting practice for the first time this weekend but is not close to beginning a rehab assignment. Lowrie, suffering from a sprained left knee capsule, feels he must continue strengthening his legs before graduating to game action.

“The biggest difference between the last two years and the rest of my career has been my leg strength,” Lowrie said. “That’s the key to my game.”

Lowrie has been traveling with the team throughout the early season, and plans to continue doing so until he is ready to travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., for a rehab assignment.

“I don’t think we have a day or a week or anything like that in mind, but very encouraged,” Callaway said. “He looks great.”

New battery

Two days after making his return from Tommy John surgery, Travis d’Arnaud was behind the plate to catch Jacob deGrom for the first time since last April. The Mets wanted to pair Wilson Ramos with Noah Syndergaard on Tuesday, also giving the oft-injured Ramos the rare benefit of two consecutive days of rest. For now, the Mets intend to start d’Arnaud at catcher once or twice per week.

Slump buster

Encouraged by Brandon Nimmo’s two hard-hit balls in Sunday’s loss to the Nationals, the Mets inserted Nimmo as their leadoff man again on Tuesday.

“I would have to say if we didn’t see what we saw in those last few at-bats the other night, we could have made a switch,” Callaway said. “But we felt those last couple of at-bats the other night -- one off of Scherzer, really putting a good swing on Scherzer -- helped us just to keep him there for the meantime.”

Back in town

Jeremy Hefner, a pitcher in New York from 2012-13, entered Citi Field on Tuesday for the first time since he was a member of the Mets organization. Hefner is now the Twins’ assistant pitching coach, serving in a role that also includes elements of scouting and analytics.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.