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Brandon Nimmo getting extra spring training at-bats against lefties for Mets 

The Mets' Brandon Nimmo runs after hitting a

The Mets' Brandon Nimmo runs after hitting a double in the third inning against the Astros at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In search of inspiration to become a more well-rounded hitter, Brandon Nimmo threw it back to a vestige of his childhood.

Todd Helton starred for Nimmo’s boyhood team, the Rockies, when Nimmo was growing up. He was a lefthanded hitter with a mastery of the strike zone, but he sort of stunk against lefthanded pitchers, at least early in his career — a skill set and a dilemma with which Nimmo is familiar.

In Helton, who is trending positively in Hall of Fame voting in recent years, Nimmo believes he may have found a solution to their problem.

"I heard that a long time ago," Nimmo said Tuesday, "he had some trouble with lefties, and so what he did was he just got lefthanded BP every single day. So I've been trying to do that all offseason, every single day."

 

Staying in Port St. Lucie for the winter, Nimmo worked out at the Mets’ spring-training facility, enlisting the help of "the only guy that was allowed to be in the stadium": Drew Dunton, the assistant minor-league equipment manager.

Dunton is lefthanded and once upon a time played high school baseball, which was good enough for Nimmo. Batting practice ensued.

"The stars aligned on that one, so I like to think I was supposed to be working on that," Nimmo said with a laugh. "We did that all offseason."

Now the Mets are trying to determine if it worked. The test: Make Nimmo face southpaws as often as possible for the next four weeks. Named by manager Luis Rojas as the Mets’ likely primary leadoff hitter this season, Nimmo was in that spot again Tuesday, opposite Astros lefthander Framber Valdez.

His only at-bat against Valdez produced a groundout, but Nimmo is excited for — and appreciative of — the opportunity during camp.

"Spring training is the perfect time for me to see as many lefties as I can because I just need to make adjustments," Nimmo said. "I've seen what the numbers were last year and I know there are improvements that need to be made. But I also have a lot of belief in myself that given the opportunities, I will make the adjustments."

Rojas added: "That's what spring training is for: Improving in some areas that you want to get better at … The more at-bats we can get him against lefties, the better."

A knock on Nimmo throughout his five major-league seasons is that he can’t hit lefthanders. Mostly, that has been true. But he also hasn’t received much of a consistent opportunity to prove otherwise, often dropped in the order or benched when the Mets match up with one.

Last year, he was bad against lefties. The year before that, he was excellent. Both were very small samples. In 2018, his most recent full season, he was OK, hitting .234 with a .351 OBP and .391 slugging percentage. He had a personal-high 151 plate appearances against them that year, nearly half of his career sum.

That is not a high total. Switch-hitter Francisco Lindor — as an example of a true everyday player — accrues about 220 plate appearances versus lefthanders per year.

To try to reverse his fortune, Nimmo has made changes, including slightly opening up his batting stance so that he can better see a pitch with both eyes. And he practiced a bunch, thanks to Helton and Dunton.

"Me going up there and doing the same thing every time is not going to happen," Nimmo said. "I'm either going to go up there with a different approach, a different mechanic or a different thought in my head — whatever it may be in order to find something that is successful. And that’s what I've done in my career up to this point. I just need the opportunities to be able to figure that out and get really comfortable."

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