Inbox: Who should play SS with Amed back?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers fans' questions

August 7th, 2020

So, it wasn’t the start the Mets wanted.

Through 13 games, the Mets, who enjoyed their first off-day on Thursday, are 5-8. But here’s the thing about a 60-game season: although it might seem short, it’s still barely 20 percent complete. In other words, they have plenty of time to turn this thing around.

In the interim, here’s the latest batch of questions and answers:

When Amed Rosario comes back, what is the most likely plan for him and Andrés Giménez?
-- @weilmyguitarge1 via Twitter

No doubt, Giménez has played extremely well the past few days. He’s batting .320 and making difficult defensive plays look easy.

But let’s get one thing straight: Rosario is the starting shortstop here, and if the Mets have their way, he’ll continue to be the starting shortstop for years to come. Rosario’s mini cold stretch to start the season does not undo the fact that he’s taken steps forward every year since first cracking the Majors in 2017. Still just 24 years old, Rosario has not reached his ceiling as a solid defensive shortstop in his own right who can hit 15-20 home runs annually with 20-30 stolen bases. The Mets hope he’ll continue improving the rest of this year, once he returns from a minor left quad injury.

That said, Giménez has absolutely earned more playing time -- it just isn’t likely to come at Rosario’s expense. Over the next couple weeks, Giménez can play regularly at second base with Robinson Canó on the injured list, or at third with Jeff McNeil playing second. By that point, we’ll have a much longer look at Giménez, complete with more evidence to tell if his strong play is sustainable. If it is, it won’t be difficult for the Mets to continue finding reps for him as the backup at second, third and shortstop.

If Giménez is performing well, he’ll play.

Will Luis Rojas shuffle the order around to get Pete Alonso feeling more comfortable? Statistically, he’s hit much better from the No. 2 spot.
-- @Manach_38 via Twitter

I can say with confidence that Alonso’s struggles have nothing to do with his place in the batting order. Yes, Alonso thrived in the two-hole last season, but the fact that he’s mostly slotted third this year is not the reason why he’s hitting .180 with one home run and a 40 percent strikeout rate. That’s happening because Alonso isn’t doing as much damage on pitches in the strike zone.

Alonso is working with Mets hitting coach Chili Davis and his staff on quieting his mechanics -- particularly his hands, which have begun moving more than normal in his pre-pitch setup. It’s possible the Mets move him down in the order while he works through his issues, but all evidence points to those problems being mechanical, not mental. He’s a confident dude.

For the time being, the Mets are keeping Alonso at first base -- even when Dominic Smith is in the lineup -- in an effort to maintain continuity in his routine. If fixing Alonso was as easy as bumping him up one spot in the batting order, they would have done so already.

When Marcus Stroman returns to rotation, who heads to bullpen: Steven Matz or David Peterson?
-- @JJFan18 via Twitter

The true answer, and the one people never want to hear, is that these situations tend to work themselves out. When Stroman returns, there’s no guarantee that everyone else will be healthy. Even if they are, it might not last for long.

Barring another injury, the easiest thing for the Mets would be to option Peterson, allowing them to limit his service time and retain an extra year of team control over him. But there is urgency to a 60-game season, so if Peterson is pitching well, he almost has to stay.

I wouldn’t call anyone outside of Jacob deGrom immune to a demotion. Back in Spring Training, Matz and Michael Wacha both seemed at risk of starting the year in the bullpen. That didn’t wind up happening, because of Noah Syndergaard’s injury, which brings me back to my original point: these things tend to work themselves out.

Despite the early struggles, is our bullpen underrated -- especially with Jared Hughes back now and Brad Brach/Robert Gsellman eventually getting back?
-- @ShrekMetsOgre via Twitter

The Mets certainly hope so. Hughes has already helped, and Brach and Gsellman should soon as well. But the Mets’ bullpen problems are not due to their middle-innings relievers struggling. For this relief corps to succeed, the Mets need meaningful contributions from most of the back-end group that includes Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson. Every one of those pitchers had at least one poor outing over the season’s first two weeks. If Díaz can right himself and Betances can improve his velocity, this will be a different bullpen.

Will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Where do you actually see Billy Hamilton fitting into this lineup?
-- @NYSportsForum via Twitter

He’ll spend most days on the bench, serving as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner. One of Rojas’ early managerial trends has been a clear preference to sub in strong defenders, like Hamilton, when the Mets have a late lead. Every now and then, Hamilton may draw a start, as he did Wednesday in center field. But most days, he figures to come off the bench.

Any other prospects gonna get a chance this year?
-- @shakeNBlake1515 via Twitter

Outside of Giménez, Peterson, Franklyn Kilome, Ali Sánchez and Walker Lockett, who have already cracked the big leagues, the Mets have two other Top 30 prospects in their 60-man player pool: Kevin Smith and Ryley Gilliam. Both were college relievers whom the Mets drafted in 2018 with an eye toward quick promotions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either in the big leagues before season’s end.

How is Syndergaard’s recovery going? “One year off” sounds so easy -- but after reading “The Arm,” I know it is not.
-- @tldunning via Twitter

The usually outspoken Syndergaard has been pretty quiet since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, but he recently began throwing at the Cressey Sports Performance facility in Florida, which is overseeing his rehab. For now, no news is good news for Syndergaard, who hopes to return to the Mets’ rotation by next Opening Day.

Is the team going to do something about the lack of an on-sight hitting coach? Seems to be an issue early on.
-- @cceleste0 via Twitter

Mets hitters have been in virtual contact with Davis, who is quarantining in Arizona, every day. In addition, the team has two assistant hitting coaches, Tom Slater and Ryan Ellis, on site daily. Both have strong relationships with the big-league hitters. Davis’ physical absence isn’t an issue in the Mets’ eyes, and isn’t the reason why the team has struggled with runners in scoring position.

Have you noticed a difference in the pre- and post-game pressers now that they are virtual? Are you finding players/coaches/Brodie Van Wagenen more or less forthright in their answers now that they (and you) are behind a screen?
-- @Deinhorn_Mets via Twitter

A conversation on Zoom is never going to be as organic as one in person, but Mets players, to their credit, have seemed to approach interviews in much the same way as usual. From a reporter’s perspective, the biggest difference is not having an open clubhouse with which to engage players in a one-on-one capacity. Those conversations tend to breed the most interesting, unique stories, and they’ve unfortunately become a casualty of the pandemic.