MIAMI — Michael Conforto is facing a critical month, one that could shape his role as the rest of the season unfolds.
A month is about how long Mets officials believe they can keep Conforto in the big leagues as a bench player without harming his long-term development, according to sources. That approach essentially buys more time to sort through what has become an increasingly tricky situation involving his playing time.
Plenty can happen in that extra time. The conundrum around Conforto could clear itself up organically, with an injury or a slump potentially opening a spot for the former first-round pick in what currently is a crowded outfield. Or perhaps Conforto himself will slump without regular playing time and wind up in the minors, as initially was planned, so he can get at-bats every day.
Conforto also could force the issue by producing as he did in Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Marlins. He went 1-for-3 and knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly, which came on a green light on a 3-and-0 count.
“It shows that they’ve got some confidence in me,” said Conforto, who is hitting .400.
Conforto also cut down the potential go-ahead run in the seventh with a perfect throw home from leftfield.
“I was just excited about making a big play, keeping us in a position to win the game,” he said. “I was fired up.”
In his return to the starting lineup, third baseman Jose Reyes walked twice and singled, showing signs of emerging from his terrible slump. He even advanced from first to third on a sacrifice bunt. Reyes raised his average to .100 (4-for-40).
Perhaps no member of the Mets entered the season with more to prove than catcher Travis d’Arnaud, and thus far, he has justified their decision not to pursue an upgrade. In nine games, d’Arnaud is hitting .333 with nine RBIs, one behind Yoenis Cespedes for the team lead.
“That’s who he is,” Terry Collins said. “He came with a label of a guy who could be dangerous offensively. Each and every hit, the confidence grows, and so does the threat of being dangerous. I’m very excited for him that he’s gotten off to a good start.”