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With Conforto out, who will bat leadoff for Mets?

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While it is up for debate whether Michael Conforto is better suited at leadoff or in the middle of New York's batting order, there is no denying that Conforto thrived batting first last season. In 68 games as a leadoff hitter, Conforto hit .281 with a .947 OPS, 20 home runs and 53 runs scored.

But Conforto is no longer an option for the Mets -- at least not in April, as he recovers from shoulder surgery. In his absence, the Mets are still debating who might start atop their order.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While it is up for debate whether Michael Conforto is better suited at leadoff or in the middle of New York's batting order, there is no denying that Conforto thrived batting first last season. In 68 games as a leadoff hitter, Conforto hit .281 with a .947 OPS, 20 home runs and 53 runs scored.

But Conforto is no longer an option for the Mets -- at least not in April, as he recovers from shoulder surgery. In his absence, the Mets are still debating who might start atop their order.

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"That's probably one of the biggest questions I have going into camp," manager Mickey Callaway said. "I'm not quite sure who's going to be leading off. I think that we need to spend a lot of time with these guys to evaluate them the right way. It's going to depend on the qualities we're looking for. It's going to depend on who's hitting second, who's hitting third. Is there a position player hitting ninth or is the pitcher hitting eighth?

"These are all decisions that we have already been bouncing around in the coaches' room that are going to become more and more clear as the spring goes on."

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The most logical solution, according to a person familiar with the Mets' thinking, is Brandon Nimmo, who posted a .379 on-base percentage last season. But the Mets want to give Juan Lagares significant reps in center field with Conforto sidelined, which will eat into Nimmo's playing time. And Lagares is only a leadoff option against left-handed pitchers.

Versus righties, the Mets have discussed Todd Frazier as an option. But Frazier, who had a .348 OBP against right-handed pitching last year, may be more valuable as a middle-of-the-order power bat.

"It's hard to make decisions off of a 30-game look," Callaway said. "So we're going to use feedback from guys that have been around these guys in the past when we make these decisions. It's something that I've been thinking really hard about and it's probably the most perplexing thing I've thought about so far. We're not quite sure at this point."

Video: Frazier deal strengthens Mets' infield, lineup

Versatility wanted
The Mets plan to give several players looks at different positions this spring. Most notably, the team wants to use both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the outfield, knowing there is a strong chance only four full-time outfielders -- Lagares, Nimmo, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce -- will make the Opening Day roster.

Reyes appeared in two games as an outfielder last season, but for Flores, it will be a new position.

Mets catching instructor Glenn Sherlock also called infielder Phillip Evans about two weeks before the start of Spring Training to see if he would be willing to give catching a shot -- a position Evans has never previously played, even in Little League.

"I was all for it," said Evans, whom the Mets re-signed after removing him from the 40-man roster this winter. "No hesitation."

Evans recently caught his first bullpen session, from Chris Flexen, and plans to continue working with Sherlock and Mets catchers for as long as he is in big league camp.

Bullpen options
Among those vying for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen is Matt Purke, a former first-round Draft pick who signed with the Mets this winter as a Minor League free agent. Purke's chance to make the team increased earlier this month, when the Mets traded away Josh Smoker -- one of only two lefty relievers on their 40-man roster.

Purke is not only left-handed, but throws in the low-to-mid-90s and, last year at the White Sox Triple-A Charlotte affiliate, struck out 11 batters per nine innings. There may not be a non-roster invitee in Mets camp with a better chance to make the club.

"You're really trying to find a place where you can stick, find a place where you can compete," Purke said. "For me, it was basically trying to find a place where I would have an opportunity to be able to be an asset. We looked at this place and really felt that there was a good chance for me to come in and compete for a spot."

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

New York Mets, Phillip Evans, Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Matt Purke