PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hadn’t yet settled into camp yesterday morning, but second baseman Neil Walker wasted little time approaching his new double-play partner.
Cabrera and Walker represent the Mets’ revamped middle infield. And as spring training unfolds, the two veterans will be tasked with learning to work together.
“He’s a really good second baseman and I think we’ll be all right,” Cabrera said on his first day in camp. “We’ll enjoy playing together . . . He knows what he has to do and I know what I have to do, too. It doesn’t take that much.”
Experience, more than anything, is what distinguishes the Mets’ new middle infield from last season’s combination. In 2015, Wilmer Flores returned to shortstop after bouncing around the infield. Daniel Murphy, who had played the outfield, third base and first base before becoming a second baseman, continued to look uncomfortable there.
Cabrera and Walker may not represent a clear upgrade in terms of defensive range, but each has played more than 800 games at his defensive position, which should smooth out the rough edges that popped up in the middle infield last season.
“I think our defense may be a little bit better, but we’ll see,’’ general manager Sandy Alderson said last week. “Certainly, we’re happy with those players. It’s going to be a new look for us and I think interesting to watch in spring training.’’
While the defense might prove to be a push, the new double-play duo could prove to be an offensive upgrade. And for the Mets — who typically have prioritized offense over defense — the success of the new combo will rest upon what they do at the plate.
Cabrera, 30, hit .265 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs with the Rays last season. During the winter, he signed a two-year, $18.5- million deal to join the Mets.
Walker, 30, arrived in a trade in December that sent lefthander Jonathon Niese to the Pirates.
“We’re happy with that combination,” Alderson said of the new middle infield. “I think that in those particular cases, I don’t want to say ‘offense first.’ But one of the key things for us losing Daniel Murphy was to get a little better against righthanded pitching. Having more lefthanded hitters in the lineup would be important for that reason. That’s where Walker and Cabrera come into play.”
Walker and Cabrera are switch hitters who have been successful against righthanders.
For now, the challenge immediately ahead of Walker and Cabrera will be learning to work together. It’s a process that Walker doesn’t think will take more than a week-and-a-half of reps in camp.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to just understand what he likes,” Walker said. “Particularly around the bag on double-play turns, and feeds, understand what he’s familiar with, what he likes to do, how he likes to come across the bag, how I like to come across the bag, those types of things.”
The Mets hope the additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker will make the double play less of an adventure this season. MLB’s best and worst at turning two last season:
1. Atlanta 186
2. Pitt. 177
3. Colo. 171
4. Texas 169
5. Detroit 165
30. LA Angels 108
29. TB 118
28. Chi. Cubs 120
27. Wash. 125
24 (tie). Mets 131
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