This was the version of Amed Rosario that the Mets had hoped for.
It was the version that ranged to his right, to make a backhanded pick on a hard liner by Luis Urias in the third. It was the Rosario who dove to his left and made a smooth shuffle pass to Robinson Cano to get the last out of the seventh — a play Cano celebrated by holding up his hands to the sky. This Rosario is speedy, defensively sound, and he has range — something that’s been missing from his repertoire since the very beginning, when Rosario was brought up to the Major Leagues as a hyped prospect that didn’t quite deliver on all his promise.
Maybe, though, he just needed time.
“Rosie has been fantastic,” Mickey Callaway said. “Making plays to his left, making plays to his right. I think he and DiSar [third-base coach Gary DiSarcina] have been working really, really hard since the beginning of last year, and there’s a lot of improvement there.”
It may not be readily visible in the numbers: Rosario is at minus-15 defensive runs saved, with a minus-6.0 UZR, which essentially measures range in comparison to average players. His defensive WAR (minus-1.1, according to ESPN) is the lowest among qualified National League shortstops, and his fielding percentage is .965, second lowest in the NL. But both his UZR and fielding percentage have improved in the last two months, a span where he’s only had two errors. He has 12 errors on the season.
This improvement also comes at a time when the Mets have been toying with the idea of moving him to centerfield. It’s a move identical to the one Omar Minaya made with Juan Lagares in 2008. Turned out, Lagares was a mediocre shortstop, but a really good outfielder. Rosario, though, said he doesn’t care where the team uses him.
“I don’t have any type of pressure,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “I just make sure that I have fun every time and I’m really open to playing wherever they need me to win games.”
And he of course also knows that there is a lot of room for improvement at his natural position. That’s why he’s been putting in the extra work with DiSarcina and trying to compensate for his limitations.
“Overall, he’s improved dramatically, Callaway said. “Lately, they’ve really been working on him crossing over a little bit more, drop stepping and stuff like that, to get a little bit more ground and I feel like he’s doing that. That diving play to the left, the backhands to the right, it seems like he’s getting better jumps covering a little more ground at the end range of his zone.”
Rosario, who’s made a handful of strong plays in this second half, and added to them Thursday, also made a strong throw to first, from his knees, on that Urias liner.
“I think it’s been the early preparation and also getting ready before the pitcher even starts to wind up and also the angles I’ve been taking,” Rosario said. “I’m excited. I’m happy about it. It shows the hard work is finally paying off.”