Mets designated hitter Dominic Smith reacts after he struck out...

Mets designated hitter Dominic Smith reacts after he struck out swinging against the Arizona Diamondbacks to end an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It wasn’t an easy conversation to have with Dominic Smith, though Buck Showalter supposes it never really is. But with injury and circumstance depleting the Mets' pitching depth, there was no way around it – Smith, who’s publicly clamored for more playing time but is currently struggling, was sent down.

The Mets Tuesday announced that Smith was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for righthanded reliever Adonis Medina, who will help bolster a pitching corps that briefly lost Drew Smith to a dislocated pinky before he pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings,  and has been heavily taxed in recent days. What’s more, the Mets started Trevor Williams against the Nationals Tuesday, and he allowed only three hits in five scoreless innings.

The hope is that the move is temporary, Showalter said. The Mets are carrying the major-league maximum 14 pitchers, and that gets slashed league-wide on June 20, when the number goes back down to 13.

That leaves Pete Alonso as the Mets' only strong option at first base, though Showalter said Tuesday that the Mets could use Mark Canha (81 starts at first over eight seasons) or J.D. Davis (eight starts over six seasons) at the position. Eduardo Escobar, who’s played there 18 times over 12 seasons, and backup catcher Patrick Mazeika are also options in a pinch, he said. Mazeika has some moderate experience there at the minor-league level.

“It’ll give him a chance to see if he can get back to the things he’s capable of and, hopefully, he can do that and I have a lot of confidence he will and get him back up here helping us, especially when we get our pitching hopefully a little more straightened out,” Showalter said of Smith. “It’s difficult. I never become cold or insensitive to that. I’ve got a lot of respect for Dom…It’s a tough conversation and not one anyone wants to have.”

Smith was slashing .186/.287/.256 with five extra-base hits in 86 at bats; he was hitless in his last three games. The Mets were in no position to option the last player they called up, outfielder Nick Plummer, who came into Tuesday with four hits two homers and five RBIs in his last two games, – including  a game-tying home run in Sunday’s come-from-behind victory against the Phillies. They also couldn’t afford to lose the outfield depth, with Brandon Nimmo still working around a sprained wrist.

Showalter said that though the Mets do need outfielders, Smith will primarily play first base in Triple-A.

 

He hopes Smith can “just settle in a comfort zone, just remind himself how good [he is] – I think he knows, he’s a confident guy. I see the work he’s doing trying to be perfect every at-bat and it’s hard to do in this game…[Hopefully, he can] get in a groove where he can be who we know who he’s capable of being.”

Showalter was confident in the team’s back-up options at the position, and said that it wouldn’t affect whether or not he chooses to rest Alonso – either with a rare off day or stashed away at DH. Alonso has said he prefers to play the field.

“I see the work that gets done before a lot of us get going that Joey [Cora] and them do at first base with different guys,” Showalter said. Cora is "realistic to a fault. I’ll say, ‘What about that guy?’ and he’ll give me the Joey look, ‘Mmm, I don’t think so.’ But I feel good about where we are – not as good as when Dom was here but that’s part of the thing you’ve got to do when you have to go to an extra pitcher.”

When the Mets really need first-base help, “hopefully, it’s going to be Dom at some point,” Showalter said.

News of the demotion must certainly sting for Smith, who told Newsday earlier this month that he wanted to play every day and would like an opportunity to do so, even if it’s somewhere else. He was also the subject of trade rumors in the offseason.

“You always try to put yourself in their shoes knowing that, in a lot of cases, you can’t,” Showalter said of his conversation with Smith. “It’s one of those cases where someone says, I know what you’re feeling. No, you don’t. No, you don’t, so don’t act like you do. I’ve learned in situations like that, you’re better off listening than you are talking.”

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