JUPITER, Fla. — The Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez this winter to be both the starting first baseman and a mentor to 22-year-old prospect Dom Smith, who had yet to fully convince the front office that he was ready for the full-time job.
But after a shaky month, Gonzalez hasn’t been able to fulfill either assignment, with his meek performance at the plate and Smith’s extended rehab from a quadriceps strain, which limited him to one Grapefruit League game.
Now, with less than a week left, maybe Gonzalez can show enough to at least give the Mets faith about his playing ability. Gonzalez finally homered Tuesday in an 8-7 victory over the Cardinals, an opposite-field shot that got a bit of a nudge from a stiff wind blowing to left. According to Elias, before that home run, Gonzalez had the second-most plate appearances (49) among players in spring training without an RBI, trailing only the Rockies’ Jordan Patterson (55).
“It’s a good feeling, somewhat of a monkey off my back,” said Gonzalez, who raised his batting average to .191 (9-for-47) with a .255 on-base percentage. “You know what you’ve done, but at the same time, you’re working on things. Everything has been a progression, but today is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Smith is out indefinitely, but the Mets do have other options. Free agents Adam Lind and Mark Reynolds still remain on the market, and they could always use Wilmer Flores and Jay Bruce at first. Flores hit his third homer Tuesday and is batting .333 (15-for-45) with a .992 OPS, but Callaway sounds committed to Gonzalez.
“I think Adrian is a professional,” Callaway said. “He’s going to get where he needs to be. I’m very comfortable with Adrian Gonzalez at first base.”
Rafael Montero gave up two runs in one-third of an inning, raising his ERA to 9.00. Even though he’s out of options, Montero isn’t making a strong case to stick in the bullpen for Opening Day. “I think a lot of it is undecided,” Callaway said of his relievers, other than the four locks at the back end. “There’s a lot of competition and someone needs to step up. I don’t think we’re concerned about being stretched out. We want to take the best pitchers we have.” . . . The Mets optioned Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme to minor-league camp and re-assigned Matt den Dekker, Jose Lobaton, Drew Smith, A.J. Griffin, Corey Taylor, Matt Purke, P.J. Conlon and Ty Kelly to the minors . . . Back in Port St. Lucie, Michael Conforto went 1-for-5 with a walk and RBI single in a minor-league game against the Cardinals. He played four innings in centerfield.