JUPITER, Fla. — Late to camp, Dominic Smith is late to playing in exhibition games, too.
The Mets are taking it slow with Smith in part because of his injury history, manager Luis Rojas said Wednesday. But he expects Smith to be the designated hitter on Thursday, when they host the Nationals, and play in the field as soon as Saturday.
"We’ve been ramping up his intensity," Rojas said.
Rojas attributed the stress fracture in Smith’s left foot in 2019 to "a lot of movement between left and first and all that." With Smith splitting time between those positions during spring training, the Mets want to avoid a repeat.
"This time, we want him to spend more time in left," Rojas said. "We’ll gradually put him in the spot where he can start coming into games. Doing his drills and then he’s gonna get to play on the field later."
Smith has been behind from the start, missing the first two full-squad workouts for undisclosed reasons.
Jacob deGrom is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday against the Astros in West Palm Beach, the Mets’ first night game of spring training.
On Monday, deGrom had his first unofficial outing of camp, throwing about two innings of live batting practice against teammates. This time, he’ll be in an environment closer to the real thing.
"I’m looking forward to it," Rojas said. "After the day off [Friday], the guys should be charged as far as getting their rest going into it."
If deGrom stays on the regular every-five-days schedule, he will be ready for Opening Day (April 1) with an extra day of rest.
The best for Boone
Rojas finished his postgame news conference Wednesday by bringing up, unprompted, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who had surgery to receive a pacemaker.
"He was very welcoming to me when I came into my position, a fellow manager from the same city," Rojas said. "I have so much respect for him. I’ll find out more of the details, but my prayer and thoughts are with him and his family right now. I just want to pray for the best with him."
In this Zoom world, the Mets found a workaround: in-person meetings outdoors, in the socially distanced environment of an empty Clover Park. They started holding their morning meetings at the stadium — complete with a portable speaker setup — this week at the behest of Rojas.
"Luis has made it clear that he likes seeing people’s faces, and I think everybody would say the same," Jerad Eickhoff said after allowing four runs in two innings in his first outing of camp. "We’re all spread out and we got a speaker system going and all that. Gives Luis a chance to see at least part of our faces and get things going as far as camaraderie and getting to know each other."
Catcher Bruce Maxwell played first base during the Mets’ 14-9 exhibition loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday . . . Franklyn Kilome on working with Pedro Martinez during the offseason: "We did a lot of work with my mechanics and with pitch location, just to be ready for this season." . . . Eickhoff, who signed a minor-league deal in December, said he considered marketing himself as open to relieving. But when the Mets said they needed rotation depth, "That’s all I needed to hear and I was on board," he said . . . Lefthander David Peterson is scheduled to start Thursday. Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Trevor May also are set to pitch in their first spring-training game.
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