Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez gets ready to throw the ball...

Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez gets ready to throw the ball during a spring training workout in Port St. Lucie. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets demoted catcher Francisco Alvarez to minor-league spring training on Wednesday, making official what had been highly likely for months: He will not start the season in the majors.

The bosses’ parting message to Alvarez, he relayed, was to be ready and stay ready to work a lot. He started a career-high 78 games behind the plate last season. That represents not quite half of a full major-league season. Looking toward the future, the Mets intend for him to carry a heavier load.

“They told me I was going to be catching a lot of games this year, so to focus in on my recovery, focus in on being there physically ready each and every day because I’m going to be getting a lot of reps behind the plate this year,” Alvarez said through an interpreter.

That is on theme with the narrative that long has followed Alvarez, 21 years old and the organization’s top prospect, especially in recent weeks. He spent his time in major-league camp focusing on his defense, which is the big question mark in his overall game.

Manager Buck Showalter praised Alvarez’s recent progress in that area.

“He’s grown and shown us that he’s going to be able to do that,” Showalter said, noting that the Mets were “running out” of pitchers/innings for Alvarez to catch this late in camp. “Pitchers like throwing to him. He’s engaged in that part of it.”

Alvarez said: “The first thing that came to mind was that I need to go back down there and work hard and prove myself so they can call me back up eventually.”

“Eventually” is the right word. It’s not clear when Alvarez, who went 2-for-12 in five games during a late-season cameo last year, will return to the majors.

Over the offseason, the Mets signed veteran backstop Omar Narvaez to pair with Tomas Nido to form what probably will be a straight platoon. That pushed Alvarez down the depth chart to Triple-A Syracuse.

Showalter said he can imagine Alvarez staying in Triple-A all year.

“I hope so, in some ways. That means that we’re doing real well and our catchers are healthy and doing well,” he said. “I hope that’s the case. He’s got a chance to be called up in September.

“Anything else I said would be promoting the failure or the [poor] health of one of the guys we have. And we like our two guys . . .  I hope at some point Francisco is as good as they are.”

Mets officials early in camp were consistent in saying they won’t promote Alvarez back to the majors until he is capable of catching regularly, since they do not see him as a DH. This time, though, Showalter left some semantic wiggle room for that possibility if the circumstances call for it.

The incumbent DH duo of Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf has underwhelmed during exhibition games.

“When you’re trying to win, everything is on the table,” Showalter said. “We’ll discuss all of it.”

Then again, Alvarez was quiet at the plate in camp, batting .107 with a .194 OBP and zero extra-base hits in 14 Grapefruit League games. And Showalter noted that he didn’t have a great average against Triple-A pitching last year (.234, albeit with an .825 OPS).

“He’s got some things to finish off offensively, that’s for sure,” Showalter said. “What he hits, I don’t really care. I just want him to continue to improve defensively.”

Alvarez said: “I know I didn’t hit here in spring training, but at the same time I’m really focusing on improving my defense. I know my bat is eventually going to come along during the season.”

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