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Mets considering playing red-hot Billy McKinney in centerfield

Billy McKinney of the Mets reacts after his

Billy McKinney of the Mets reacts after his fifth-inning RBI double against the Padres at Citi Field on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Billy McKinney and his 1.106 OPS to begin the week have made such an impression on the Mets that they are considering playing him in centerfield just to keep his bat in the lineup.

For now, McKinney remains the regular rightfielder. But Michael Conforto (strained right hamstring) is expected to go on a rehab assignment this weekend and is penciled in for a return next weekend.

"He’s got great defensive skills," manager Luis Rojas said Monday. "We believe that he can play centerfield. He hasn’t played at the major-league level but we may see him there for us, especially if Conforto comes back soon, as we expect now because he’s trending right. He’s done everything and more than we’ve asked him to do ever since we acquired him."

McKinney has played one-third of an inning in centerfield in the majors. That came on June 1 with the Mets.

In the minors, he has started in center 127 times across five seasons. But not regularly since 2014.

It is hard to argue, though, with 10 extra-base hits in his first 13 games with the Mets.

"He’s responded well in every situation that we’ve asked him to be in, whether it’s defensively or at the plate," Rojas said. "I just think that he's showing everybody what he can do."

Injury updates

Like Conforto, Brandon Nimmo (left hand injury) is slated to begin a rehab assignment by the end of this week, Rojas said. He took batting practice on the field on Monday.

Conforto and Nimmo looked like regular players during a defense/baserunning exercise. That is particularly noteworthy for Conforto, because he is returning from a leg injury.

Pitcher swap

The Mets called up righthander Sean Reid-Foley from Triple-A Syracuse and designated righthander Jacob Barnes for assignment.

Although Mets officials had high hopes for Barnes, claimed off waivers from the Angels in October, he had a 6.27 ERA in 19 relief appearances.

Reid-Foley has a 1.98 ERA in six appearances (13 2/3 innings).

Getting close

The Mets expect Albert Almora Jr. (left shoulder contusion) to return this weekend, Rojas said. Same goes for Jeff McNeil (left hamstring strain).

Almora is 2-for-14 with a homer and a walk in five games with Triple-A Syracuse. He hasn’t played a full game yet.

Hey now

No Mets position player ranked among the top five in All-Star voting at his respective position, according to an update released by MLB on Monday.

Closest are first baseman Pete Alonso, shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman J.D. Davis, who are distant sevenths at their spots.

Phase one voting goes through June 24. In their initial promoting, the Mets, missing many of their best players, made social-media pushes for backup players who aren’t on the ballot.

Extra bases

Rojas on moving a struggling Dominic Smith from fourth/fifth to third in the lineup: "We trust he can come back. He’s just inconsistent." . . . Former owner Fred Wilpon, who maintained a small stake in the Mets when he told the team to Steve Cohen last year, was on the field during batting practice, chatting with Rojas and others.

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