PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Trying to become an adequate leftfielder, Dominic Smith in recent days has been without the one variable that helps most: in-game experience.
Sidelined by a sore right wrist, Smith was out of the lineup again Friday as the Mets beat the Cardinals, 8-5. But he did get good news in the form of clearance from the Mets’ athletic trainers to take batting practice, allowing him to swing a bat one day earlier than expected.
Smith said he wasn’t worried about getting enough at-bats in time for Opening Day, but, well, it is not his plate performance that makes the Mets nervous. It’s his defense.
Although he has played leftfield in just three exhibition games — maxing out at five innings — he said he is comfortable there.
"From the first day I played in the big leagues to now, I feel extremely comfortable," said Smith, a bit more mellow than his usual upbeat self. "I'm excited just to see my progression over the last couple of years. I'm confident I'll be able to be fine out there in leftfield. … I put an extreme amount of work into it, so I'm excited to see what that work will do for me."
Like manager Luis Rojas, Smith talked up using the downtime for additional defensive practice: drills with outfield coach Tony Tarasco, chasing flyballs during batting practice and the like.
He might get back to the real thing during a simulated game on Saturday, according to Rojas. The Mets don’t have a Grapefruit League game scheduled.
"If this were the regular season, I would definitely be out there and pushing through this," Smith said. "But obviously we know it’s a long marathon and we just want to be smart, so I should be out there the next couple days."