JUPITER, Fla. — Gavin Cecchini, a shortstop his whole life, now is a second baseman for the Mets. He also spent part of his offseason learning to play third. Despite his Grapefruit League action being limited to second so far, he expects to take reps at both spots on the left side of the infield this month.
Cecchini’s motivation is simple: The more he can do, the better chance he has of making it back to — and sticking in — the majors.
“I really believe I’m a middle infielder, and I think [the Mets] do too. That’s where my position is,” Cecchini said. “But hey, listen, you have to make the team somehow.”
Cecchini, 24, doesn’t need a reminder of how hard baseball is or how fleeting professional success can be. He has an example in his own family, big brother Garin Cecchini, a former third-base prospect for the Red Sox.
Garin, who turns 27 next month, was a consensus top-75 prospect in the game four years ago. His lefthanded swing and ability to make contact/get on base earned him comparisons to Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. He appeared in 11 major-league games for Boston in 2014 and two more the next year, but hasn’t seen The Show since, bouncing from the Brewers to the Royals to the Mexican Winter League last October.
(The elder Cecchini is also the answer to a New York baseball trivia question: Who fielded Derek Jeter’s last hit? Garin Cecchini picked up Jeter’s slow roller toward third at Fenway Park on Sept. 28, 2014.)
While Gavin is in big-league camp with the Mets, Garin is at home as a free agent.
“This game is tough. Sometimes you don’t get things that you deserve,” Gavin said. “There are times when you’re big-league ready and they have other guys that they’re paying a lot of money to, or they make trades and stuff, and sometimes they don’t give you the opportunities that you deserve.
“At the end of the day, you can’t let that affect you. You have to go out there and keep saying hey, ‘I’m going to keep doing my thing, I’m going to keep getting better and I’m going to force their hand.’ ”
Gavin wants to force the Mets’ hand with changes in a couple of areas. Greater defensive versatility is one. The other, he hopes, is on the offensive end, including improvements he made to his swing this winter.
The buzzword that would apply to Cecchini’s alterations is launch angle. He has worked on staying behind the ball, laying the barrel down to a 45-degree angle and having more rhythm in his hands.
“Getting the most out of my swing,” Cecchini said.
Said Mets manager Mickey Callaway: “It’s more of trying to make sure you’re getting underneath the ball a little bit more.”
Cecchini is hoping those tweaks help him improve upon the .217/.270/.301 slash line he posted in 36 major-league games the past two years.
Early returns are solid. In six exhibition contests, Cecchini is 5-for-11 (.455) with two homers and five RBIs.
“He’s a good ballplayer. Obviously showing a little bit more power this spring training than probably we’ve seen in the past,” Callaway said. “That’s one of the things he really honed in on this winter. It’s good to see a guy’s hard work pay off. He looks good.”
The Mets are set in the infield, particularly at Cecchini’s primary position, with Asdrubal Cabrera the starter and Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores off the bench.
But Cecchini will stand by and wait for the Mets to need him, wherever that may be.
“We have a bunch of veteran guys on this team,” Cecchini said. “So anything I can put in my back pocket to say hey, I can do this. You need me to do that? I can do that. Just to help the team win.
“This game is about having fun. Sometimes we can get in the modes where you take it so seriously. You have your ups and downs, but they say ‘play ball.’ They don’t say ‘work ball.’ You have to go out there and have fun and at the end of the day enjoy yourself.”
Gavin Cecchini is off to a fast start. His numbers through six exhibition contests:
2 Home runs