Three games into his big-league career, Michael Conforto has become part of the daily conversation surrounding the Mets.
Conforto, brought up from Double-A Binghamton last week, is reminiscent of a call-up the Mets made more than 25 years ago when infielder Gregg Jefferies was inserted into the lineup and became a late-season sensation.
Conforto, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is batting .444 in his first nine at-bats. He has plenty of work ahead of him to mirror Jefferies' first 13 games in 1988 after his promotion from Triple-A Tidewater in late August. From Aug. 28 through Sept. 12, Jefferies went 24-for-52 for a .462 average. The switch hitter had seven doubles, two triples, five home runs and 10 RBIs, earning comparisons with Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle.
Jefferies, 47, a baseball instructor in Southern California, knows the pressure on Conforto.
"I just hope he can go out and play his game," he said. "It's tricky. I was a young kid that got brought up. I don't even know if the veteran guys thought I was going to stay."
Unless the Mets trade for an outfielder this week, Conforto could remain in the big leagues at least until Michael Cuddyer returns from a knee problem.
Jefferies, the 20th overall pick in the 1985 draft, had a cameo appearance in 1987 and went 3-for-6. In 1988, he was inserted into the lineup primarily in place of struggling but still popular third baseman Howard Johnson. Jefferies also played 10 games at second, where he was the heir to Wally Backman's job.
"I definitely could have used more time [in the minors]," Jefferies said. "I had veterans on the team that pretty much said, 'Do it yourself. You've got to learn on your own.' "
Conforto has a much more nurturing atmosphere. These Mets will take contributions from whoever can produce.
"The thing that was hard for me was I was coming to a World Series team [in 1986] and I was replacing a team favorite," Jefferies said. "I could see how the veterans weren't overly happy with me being there. I get it. I did a lot of things wrong. I was immature. I definitely handled some things wrong. I had a temper that took me years to control."
Jefferies never played in college and thinks Conforto, who attended Oregon State, "has the advantages playing college baseball. I signed right out of high school in '85 and two years later I'm in the big leagues. That's not a long growing curve. He has had the luxury of college baseball. So I really think he's going to be fine. You just have to trust what he's doing."
Conforto had all four of his hits in his second major-league game, but manager Terry Collins has found something he's liked about him in each game. In Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Dodgers, Conforto went 0-for-2 but also walked and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in the second run against Zack Greinke.
Collins likes Conforto's approach. "The kid gets in the batter's box, he knows the strike zone, he's got plate discipline," he said. "He knows enough until he gets a deep count to get a pitch to hit. The balls on the edge, he doesn't swing at it until he absolutely has to."
Jefferies was given the second-base job in 1989 and hit .258. He said he began to "overanalyze things." He was traded to the Royals in 1992, later went to the Cardinals and was named to the All-Star team in 1993 and 1994. He averaged .289 for six teams in a 14-year career.
Jefferies' fondest memories are from his time with the Mets.
"I'm extremely grateful," he said. "People don't know me from Philadelphia or St. Louis or Detroit. They know me from the Mets."
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