The Mets’ batting order took a big step toward full strength as they kicked off a three-game series against the Marlins on Friday night at Citi Field. Two regulars — Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario — both returned from injuries suffered Monday when the Mets won in Atlanta.
McNeil started the season one of the Mets' hottest hitters. In the first 10 games, he batted .343 with a .429 on-base percentage. And that’s after batting .318 last season. Rosario batted .287 last season, but has been more inconsistent in the early going of the 2020 campaign. At one point, he was hitting well enough to get moved to the leadoff spot, but he was back batting ninth with a .244 average entering play Friday.
Their return not only was expected to provide a lift in offensive production, but also allow manager Luis Rojas to make some adjustments aimed at helping the club’s inconsistent defensive play. The Mets ranked 11th of 15 National League teams in fielding percentage and errors entering the game with Miami.
Seeing how the club had underperformed in the field, Rojas planned to have McNeil make his first start in leftfield before he felt lower-back tightness while hitting in the Atlanta batting cages. His goal was to take J.D. Davis out of the outfield, where he had not looked good, because McNeil had more experience playing there.
And McNeil made the start in left with Davis moving to third base.
“We might see (McNeil) more in the outfield,” Rojas said. “We have to make adjustments in our game where it’s already hurt us, so we have to switch positions.”
He said Davis did a lot of work in the offseason to improve at third base because he was told to expect “to shift to third base.” Rojas said Davis “worked hard to be more agile moving laterally. (Now) He’s able to drop step and create longer hops.”
Rookie Andres Gimenez is expected to get most of the starts at second base until Robinson Cano can return from the injured list. Brian Dozier also could see some action there, depending on pitching matchups.
Cano suffered a Grade II strain of his left adductor — also Monday — but has a track record for healing quickly and believes he can be back Aug. 14 when he is eligible to come off the IL. On Friday, he took infield practice and Rojas said he was to hit in the batting cage.
Cano is off to a torrid start this season, slashing .412/.462/.559 and has a seven-game hitting streak.
“He’s responded really good . . . He was going to try to do some things — play the field, hit — and do some things (that involve) moving the affected area,” Rojas said. “He's progressing really well and . . . we’ll get there. He’s on a day-to-day basis and he’s looking good right now.”