CHICAGO — His team scoring runs at the lowest rate in the majors, manager Luis Rojas delivered a lineup shakeup on Thursday, sitting a trio of regulars in the Mets’ series finale with the Cubs.
One of those was for health reasons. Brandon Nimmo tested his stiff right hip during a series of running drills under the observation of an athletic trainer, but he was deemed not ready to return. Rojas said Nimmo was available off the bench and should start the next day, which was the expectation on Wednesday, too.
The other benchings were decidedly not for health reasons. J.D. Davis, with three errors in the previous two games, sat in favor of Luis Guillorme. Jeff McNeil, who is hitting .167 with a .255 OBP, was replaced by Jonathan Villar.
Rojas framed Guillorme and Villar’s presence as wanting to keep them involved. But there is no hiding Davis and McNeil’s respective struggles.
Still, Rojas said Davis would return to the lineup Friday, when the Mets open a homestand against the Nationals.
"Why give up on him at this point in the season, when he's put in so much work and we've actually seen some results in his defense at third?" Rojas said. "We still feel pretty strong that he can go in there and play the position and make some plays for us.
"But we still trust his defense to start the game and get us going offensively, which is where his best value is. But he's going to put in the work."
Rojas described McNeil as being "too fine" with his swing, trying to place the ball instead of just hitting it hard and letting it go where it may. Hitting coach Chili Davis, similarly, said this week that McNeil was toying with an "unnecessary adjustment," a pre-swing toe tap that ended up affecting his timing.
McNeil, a career .313 hitter, is back to his regular stance, Davis said. It is worth noting that his expected batting and slugging statistics — based on the quality of his batted balls — suggest he has been unlucky, as Pete Alonso noted in his defense of his friend’s start.
"He's doing pretty much everything right," Alonso said. "So it's just a matter of time before those hard-hit balls start to translate into hits. He's having really quality at-bats. I'm not worried about Jeff whatsoever."
Rojas added: "Be aggressive. That’s the best thing he can do: Be aggressive. Don’t be so result-oriented. Just get to your feel."
McNeil, though, is notoriously result-oriented — and hard on himself when the results aren’t there.
"He's always been," Rojas said. "This year he's been a little less than years before. You’ve got to probably attribute that to the maturity, to the experience, but he's still hard on himself."
In addition to fielding for Davis for the day, Guillorme was slotted into the leadoff spot for the first time in his major-league career.
Rojas said he liked that idea because Guillorme has exhibited an ability to get on base. He had a .426 OBP last season and reached base in 10 of 17 plate appearances this season entering play Thursday.
"This is a guy that sees pitches, gets on base," Rojas said. "He’s a guy that can lead the way for the middle of the order. Our second through fifth hitters, they’re going to hit with some traffic. He can be a clutch hitter for us. If there’s a runner moved by the pitcher on a bunt situation, he’s a guy that can drive him in too. He’s done it repeatedly. He’s always ready to get in there."
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