ATLANTA — Even during the worst baseball days in these last four years, Brandon Nimmo always was ready with a wide grin, on and off the field, the rare player known for his sunny disposition, on a team that gave him every reason to be negative.
There hasn’t been much of that lately, with the Mets in a tailspin, and Nimmo on the injured list. And there won’t be any of that for a quite a long time.
Nimmo received an epidural for his inflamed neck and has been shut down from baseball activities for at least 30 days, Mickey Callaway said, the result of Nimmo’s second opinion Monday, when he went to see Dr. Robert Watkins, who also worked on David Wright. They have not discussed surgery, Callaway said, and there is no timetable for Nimmo’s return. He’ll be re-evaluated after the 30-day period in mid-July. Nimmo originally landed on the IL on May 22, and said he had a bulging disc in his neck and couldn’t turn his head right. Regardless, the Mets went forward with playing him in rehab games, until he had to be scratched from a start last week, leading to further questioning of how the team is handling its recurring injuries. Justin Wilson and Robinson Cano also came back before they apparently were ready, re-aggravating existing injuries.
“That’s certainly a loss for us,” said Michael Conforto, who now stands to get more games in centerfield. “He’s not only at the plate, getting on base, high energy guy, he’s just a guy in the clubhouse guys like to have around; he’s always positive and leads by example.”
The Mets are in an unusual but not ideal position in the outfield. Their best defensive option, Juan Lagares, swings a light bat. Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil. all natural infielders, are less defensively sound there, but hit a whole lot more. All three will see time in the outfield with Nimmo gone, with McNeil likely being first in that depth chart. Smith has made himself impossible to ignore, with a team-high .448 on-base percentage, third in the majors for players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances.
“You come into the season, you count on Nim. His on-base percentage is such a helpful way for you to score runs,” Callaway said, “but we covered ourselves with depth and we need that depth to step up and continue to play good baseball.”
Conforto, for his part, has played 107 major-league games in center, 58 last season, though none this year, and says he’ll be ready to play there when he gets the call. Carlos Gomez was in the lineup there Tuesday.
“I’m all for any way we can get the hot bats in the lineup,” Conforto said. “I think it makes sense to get Dom in there, to get J.D. in there to kind of bolster that lineup. Those guys have held their own in the outfield.”
“If there was Jeff or Dom in left and I was in center, I would probably want to stick a little bit closer to whoever has the least experience,” he added. “If this is what we’re doing, we’re going to have to put some faith in those guys that they can get the job done…I think they’ve shown some athleticism out there. I think it’s just a time for everybody to step up.”