WASHINGTON — In Brett Baty, who has ascended from off the roster to the Mets’ No. 5 hitter in the first quarter of the season, Buck Showalter sees a key quality: the ability to focus.
The manager targeted the rookie third baseman for a casual chat Friday — they hadn’t had one in a while, Showalter said — and in the course of the conversation, Baty disclosed one of his realizations from the past month: Concentrating here is simple.
“It’s just easier to lock in for every single pitch,” Baty said. “I was telling him about Binghamton. In Binghamton, we’d have 200 people in the stands and we might be playing the fourth game of a six-game set, they’re up by six runs. It’s a little bit easier to check out during those times.
“But up here, breath of fresh air. Every single pitch matters. Every single game matters. So you better be locked in every single pitch, because if you do get a ground ball or you do get that pitch to hit, you better be ready to hit it.”
Showalter came to value that trait because of the late Gene Michael, a longtime Yankees executive who in separate eras served as a mentor to Showalter and Mets general manager Billy Eppler.
Michael talked about it all the time, Showalter said: “Great concentrators.” That was why he liked Paul O’Neill, who won four World Series with the Yankees, and Charlie Hayes, the first two examples who came to mind for Showalter.
“[Showalter] told me he looks for that in every single player, how well they can concentrate for that long,” Baty said. “Just because sometimes these games are a little bit long and taxing, but you gotta be locked in every single pitch.”
Baty entered Saturday hitting .239 with a .693 OPS, numbers that have dipped during the past couple of weeks. Still, Showalter recently promoted him to fifth in the lineup, a spot in which he serves as Pete Alonso’s protection.
“He’s doing well,” Showalter said. “I’m proud of him.”
The Mets plan to activate lefthander Brooks Raley from the injured list Sunday.
After missing two weeks, Raley said he feels significantly better. Though the official reason for him being sidelined was left elbow inflammation, Raley described the sensation as more of a fatigued arm. He cited a hamstring injury that interrupted his spring training as a factor.
“I felt worn down,” Raley said. “Obviously, in that part of the year, it was a time to reset . . . Coming out of spring, just trying to be ready to go — and I was — and then the workload and fatigue was compounding.”
Since the Mets moved Francisco Alvarez to the No. 9 spot and left him there on April 25, he is slashing .290/.357/.526 in 14 games. Showalter said he likes having Alvarez bat last because “it takes a little focus off of him.” Plus it is nice to have a power threat at a spot that often is a black hole offensively. Showalter said: “I think, I hope down the road, he can move up in the lineup.”