New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo during a spring training...

New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo during a spring training workout, Friday Feb. 24, 2023 in Port St. Lucie, FL. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When the Mets open their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday afternoon with a visit to the Astros in West Palm Beach, Brandon Nimmo won’t be in the lineup. Nor will he be that night when they play their first home game at Clover Park against the Marlins. And he won’t play Sunday. Or Monday. Or most of the rest of the week.

Nimmo, perfectly healthy, is taking a new approach to spring training this year, one that includes doing everything he needs to get ready for the season but doesn’t include playing in so many games because, well, they are not of much consequence. He doesn’t need them.

“We’re not in the mindset anymore of just because that’s the way it’s always been done, that’s the way you should do it,” he said. “We’re in the mindset of whatever works, repeat that. Do that. Last year worked.

“The reason is we want another 150, 150-plus [games] out of me again — and then the playoffs. Just putting a little more emphasis on games that matter versus spring training games.”

In designing this plan, Nimmo and the Mets drew inspiration from last season, the best of his career. He played in a personal-best 151 games, maintained his on-base excellence and overall offensive prowess and improved his defense to the point that questions about his centerfield ability became irrelevant, maybe even silly. Then he cashed in with an eight-year, $162 million deal to stay with the Mets.

Now he will try to repeat all that — starting by repeating spring training.

His 2022 success began with a preseason camp drastically shortened by the lockout. He and the training/medical staff learned he could get ready — and then have great success — in just a few weeks. It provided a new “blueprint,” as Nimmo called it.

Consider: Last year, he played in eight exhibition games. In the four years before that, he averaged 16. The Mets have 30 such contests on their schedule through late March.

“Eight? That’s it? Jeez Louise,” Nimmo said. “It’s going to mimic as much as we can to last year . . . It might be a few more [games] than that. But it’s not going to be 16.”

With spring training back to its regular six weeks or so this year, Nimmo can take it extra slow. He won’t get on the field for an exhibition until late next week, he said, before following a standard, deliberate buildup: playing three innings in a game, then five, then seven, then nine — listening to his body and mixing in additional days off along the way as necessary.

So when he is absent more than most key Mets, know it is part of the plan. In the meantime, he’ll be getting at-bats on the back fields, where he can hit without having to spend the energy required of even a low-key Grapefruit League game.

This is the sort of balanced plan Nimmo sought for years as he tried to stay on the field regularly. As good as he is, and for as much as he takes care of his body, it didn’t matter if he wasn’t available to play regularly.

He believes he has cracked the durability code.

“Even with the baseball swing, when you’ve been working on your swing, working on your swing and you get this moment when it clicks for you,” Nimmo said, snapping his fingers, “you’re overjoyed. Oh, yes, I get to let this ride for a while and have this good feeling going forward.

“It’s the same thing when you kind of find something for you physically. It’s like, OK, I have something I can go back to. Almost like a blueprint that you can check against. It’s a great feeling to be able to come in with a plan.”


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