MIAMI — For the Mets, first base is the center of an increasingly prominent theme of their season: How do you balance trying to win a given game (by playing Wilmer Flores’ hot bat) with trying to develop players for the future (by playing Dominic Smith)?
It hasn’t mattered so much the past couple of days, with Smith sitting out with a sore right wrist, a minor issue he said he deals with every year. Flores started at first against a righthander for a fourth game in a row Saturday, going 1-for-4 with a double. Those usually are spots in which the 23-year-old Smith — recently recalled to the majors as he tries to prove himself and the Mets try to figure out what they have in him — would be able to get reps.
Smith said he hurt his wrist merely by swinging.
“And swinging and swinging. Getting my swings in, taking a lot of swings, trying to work on my swing,” he said. “They’re taking me slow and making sure I get healthy for sure. But it’s getting better, it’s good.”
Limited to pinch hitting since Wednesday, Smith expects to play Sunday. He’s a safe bet to slot in more regularly, at least against righthanders, when he is good to go. Other circumstances — mostly the Mets’ dearth of outfielders — have led to Smith starting as many major-league games in the outfield as he has at first (five each) this year.
Manager Mickey Callaway is cognizant of the winning/development balance.
“That’s a balance we need to pay attention to,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we have our best offense out there every night to give us the best chance to win, and we also want to continue to develop and be a big part of what we’re trying to do here and in the future. That’s something that takes some thought. We’ll pick opportunities for Dom along the way.”
Callaway said hitting coaches Pat Roessler and Tom Slater are working with Smith (.222/.255/.400 in 17 games) on hitting the ball to the opposite field more often. In Smith’s couple of weeks in the majors this season, he’s pulled almost half of his batted balls, a jump up from his 38.7-percent pull rate last year with the Mets.
“Continuing to try to get Dom in a place where he can have the approach that he wants at the plate,” Callaway said. “[Roessler and Slater] are really emphasizing with him, just to stay on the ball. Don’t be afraid to go the other way and drive it into that left-center gap.”