PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets need a centerfielder, at least until Michael Conforto returns around May 1. They also need a leadoff hitter. Brandon Nimmo is making a bid to be both.
Nimmo homered and scored twice out of the leadoff spot Monday in a 4-2 win over the Tigers. He is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with an .889 slugging percentage (two homers, one triple, one double) in seven games.
“I definitely am comfortable in the leadoff spot. It’s a place that yeah, I think suits my approach,” Nimmo said. “They’re testing it out right now. It’s been going well so far. I think that they’re just looking for someone who is going to try to find good pitches to hit and set a tone for the game, and I hope to be that person. I’m just going to try to keep my same approach.”
That approach — including Nimmo’s hallmark patience and keen eye — lately has featured swinging at the first pitch if it’s one he likes. Both of his homers came on the first pitch.
“We’re looking for certain qualities in hitters in certain spots,” Mickey Callaway said. “He definitely fits a mold of what you’d be looking for in that leadoff spot.”
Callaway said it’s too early for any plan on how the lefthanded-hitting Nimmo and righthanded-hitting Juan Lagares might share playing time in center come the regular season. Lagares, who got a late start on playing in games because of a strained left hamstring, is a high-end defender. Nimmo has played mostly left in the majors and mostly center in the minors.
“They made it pretty clear that it’s an open competition,” Nimmo said. “Nobody has a spot here, especially with the new staff. They’re getting first eyes on us. That’s definitely how I came into spring, that I’m competing for a position. It’s healthy competition, but it is competing. I don’t think that I have a guaranteed spot at all, so my results do matter to me.
“I think part of the reason they think I can be a leadoff hitter is because of my approach. I’m not trying to do anything differently. Just keeping that approach of finding a good pitch to hit, and I’ve been able to do that a few times this spring.”
Gimenez tastes the bigs
The Mets brought shortstop Andres Gimenez, their top prospect, over from minor-league camp as an extra player against the Tigers. Gimenez pinch ran in the eighth and booted a hard-hit grounder (ruled a single) in the ninth.
“He looks really, really young,” Callaway said of the 19-year-old. “He seems like a really good kid.”
Conforto’s next small rehabilitation step: hitting overhand toss in the batting cage Tuesday. That’s basically normal batting practice, Conforto said, but not quite as intense, because it’s not on an open field and the BP pitcher is a little closer . . . Anthony Swarzak (strained left calf) said he felt good during a 20-pitch modified bullpen session Monday, throwing mostly from the slope, with a couple of pitches from the rubber.