With their outfield in disarray, the Mets put Brandon Nimmo on the injured list Wednesday with what they called a stiff neck. It has bothered him on and off for more than a month and became bad enough this week that the team decided to have him get an MRI.
The Mets did not say before their game against the Nationals what they learned about Nimmo’s neck or how severe the issue is.
To help a bare-bones outfield depth chart and take Nimmo’s roster spot, Rajai Davis is up from Triple-A Syracuse. The Mets designated reliever Paul Sewald for assignment to make room for Davis on the 40-man roster.
Additionally, leftfielder Jeff McNeil was out of the lineup Wednesday with left hamstring tightness, which he said he felt in the ninth inning of the Mets’ win Tuesday.
“It’s more just day-to-day with him,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Not in the lineup and kind of go from there.”
That left the Mets with three healthy natural outfielders: Rajai Davis, Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez. Third baseman J.D. Davis started in left Wednesday, and Callaway said he was comfortable using first baseman Dominic Smith in left if needed.
“[J.D.] Davis, today, is one of our starting outfielders, not by choice, really,” Callaway said. “That’s who we have.”
Smith has asked the Mets repeatedly to try him again in leftfield, as they did late last season, but the Mets have declined his offers. Callaway said Smith has been taking fly balls there during batting practice “for fun.”
Occasionally using Smith in left could have multiple benefits for the Mets: getting his bat in the lineup more often (which is tough to do with Pete Alonso entrenched at first base) and potentially upping Smith’s value for an eventual trade.
“So sometimes you have to do what you have to do,” Callaway said. “If we have to make a double switch or something and we improve our offense when we’re down a couple of runs and he has to go play left or something, we’ll do it.”
It’s not clear whether Nimmo’s neck was bothering him enough to influence his performance at the plate, but there is at least a correlation. On April 16, when Nimmo encountered the neck stiffness, he was hitting .241 with a .388 OBP and .463 slugging percentage. Since then, those numbers are .171/.312/.224.
“He doesn’t seem to think it has, but if you’re battling something, it can affect it,” Callaway said.
The positive outfield news Wednesday for the Mets: Michael Conforto engaged in light baseball activities, including playing catch on the field at Citi Field, for the first time since sustaining a concussion last week.
The Mets traded outfielder Keon Broxton to the Orioles on Wednesday for $500,000 in international bonus pool space. That dollar value — which isn’t actual cash, but instead permission to spend that amount on bonuses for international amateurs — is for the 2018-19 signing period, which ends June 15. That leaves the Mets with 25 days to use the added international spending flexibility.
Acquired in January from the Brewers for three minor-leaguers, Broxton had a .143/.208/.163 slash line in 34 games (53 plate appearances) for the Mets when he was designated for assignment Friday.
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz visited Citi Field and took batting practice Wednesday. Mitchell is the son of the Mets’ director of player relations and community relations, Donovan Mitchell Sr., and grew up a Mets fan … A quirk of the schedule: After Thursday’s noon game, the Mets and Nationals don’t play each other again until Aug. 9. The teams already have played four of their six series this season.