ATLANTA — Dominic Smith, relegated to the bench for all but one of the Mets’ first dozen games, “can be an everyday first baseman” in the future, manager Mickey Callaway reiterated Thursday.
Just not right now. With Pete Alonso performing even better than reasonably could have been expected — he had a .366/.435/.878 slash line with a Mets-record 15 RBIs in his first 11 games — Callaway has had little choice but to leave the rookie in there. Alonso’s 454-foot, two-run homer against the Braves on Thursday night gave him six homers and 17 RBIs in 12 games.
Smith is 5-for-12 (.417) with four RBIs, playing almost exclusively as a late-inning pinch hitter/defensive replacement.
“Dom has performed well as we’ve seen, Alonso has been amazing. It’s a balancing act that’s tough,” Callaway said.
“When you’re a player, you have to deal with your situation, and I think [Smith is] dealing it with the best he can. He’s staying upbeat, he’s staying positive, he’s pulling for his teammates, even maybe the guy playing in front of him, which is rare. He’s doing a great job at his role at this point. There’s no doubt at some point he’ll be an everyday first baseman.”
Teams sometimes prefer to have their promising young position players get full-time at-bats in the minors rather than serve as reserves in the majors to avoid interrupting their development. But with Smith, who is only 23 and spent parts of the previous two seasons in the big leagues, his skill set is valuable enough in a part-time role that he’s worth keeping around, Callaway said.
The Mets might have a tough decision to make if everybody is healthy when Todd Frazier and, eventually, Jed Lowrie come back.
“He’s gotten quite a lot of playing time for having only one start so far,” Callaway said. “If we can keep him doing that, we can still have a quality player on our hands. It’s always difficult to be just a bench player and come off the bench, but he’s done a great job of keeping himself locked in so far. There’s a lot of value there.”
Frazier gets closer
Frazier (strained left oblique) will rejoin the Mets “any day now,” Callaway said. He went 1-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs for advanced Class A St. Lucie on Thursday, playing five innings at third and four innings at first.
“He needs to get comfortable so he can come up here at 100 percent,” Callaway said. “We’ve talked about this with all of these [injured] guys. We want to make sure they’re in the right spot. So we’ll continue to talk to him. The [Mets’ talent evaluators] that are watching him feel like he’s very close. The player and everybody needs to be comfortable with it when we activate him.
“How close is probably going to be decided by the player here in the end. You have a goal of how many at-bats and things like that. He’s pretty much at that threshold. So I would hope that’s going to be soon.”
After missing all of the Grapefruit League season and playing in several extended spring training games, Frazier is 5-for-23 (.217) with five strikeouts in six games for St. Lucie.
Juan Lagares got his fifth start in center Thursday. Callaway said Keon Broxton is scheduled to play Friday . . . Jessica Mendoza, a baseball operations adviser for the Mets and a “Sunday Night Baseball” commentator for ESPN, is in Atlanta for this series, splitting time between her two roles. She chatted with uniformed Mets personnel during batting practice Thursday and will call the game Sunday.