JUPITER, Fla. — As the other Mets dressed around him, and some packed for Tuesday’s trip down I-95 to face the Cardinals, Dom Smith was doing what he usually does, going about the business of trying to get healthy again.
And for the past month, that’s meant getting left behind. From trips, and more importantly, from the Mets’ plans for this season — or at least the early part of it. That has to be crushing for Smith, who worked so hard during the offseason to shed pounds and prepare himself to win the first baseman’s job in spring training.
The painful part? Adrian Gonzalez’s poor performance (.191) has left the door wide open, even with Tuesday’s homer against the Cardinals, and Smith has been unable to capitalize on the opportunity because he’s spent the past month rehabbing from a right quadriceps strain.
“It is what it is,” Smith said Tuesday. “I’m frustrated, obviously. I’m a competitor, and if this was August or September, maybe I don’t back off and instead try to push through it. But not at this time of year.”
Smith, 22, had never been injured before, and after a body-changing fitness regimen this winter, he thought he was in the best place — physically and mentally — of his young career upon his arrival in Port St. Lucie. But all that promise quickly dissolved as soon as the Grapefruit League schedule began, with Smith getting scratched from the opener after showing up late that morning for a team meeting. The next day, Smith made the most of his second chance with two hits, including a double, but injured the quad on the basepaths.
He hasn’t played again, being limited to live batting practice and simulated games. And it appears Smith won’t get a shot in another game before the Mets break camp Monday.
“It’s not looking good at this point,” Mickey Callaway said. “I wanted to see him. I wanted to see who Dom Smith is and I didn’t get to see that this spring.”
Smith brought that up, too. With the Mets’ new coaching staff, he knew how crucial it was to make a good first impression, and now that window has passed him by.
“I was interested to see how I was going to play, too,” Smith said. “The timing (stinks). It (stinks) to get hurt. Trying to get back on the field is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a long, painful process.”