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Mets’ Michael Conforto making a case for staying in against lefties

New York Mets leftfielder Michael Conforto is high-fived

New York Mets leftfielder Michael Conforto is high-fived in the second inning after scoring on a groundout by pitcher Jacob deGrom against the Philadelphia Phillies during the Mets' home opener on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Citi Field. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Is it time to take the training wheels off Michael Conforto? Could the young Mets outfielder be ready to start facing lefthanders on a regular basis?

It certainly looked that way in the seventh inning of a 7-2 win over the Phillies in the Mets’ home opener Friday. Conforto, who already had doubled to drive in a run in the sixth inning, was kept in the game although the Phillies brought in lefthander James Russell. He responded by singling through the hole on the right side to drive in two runs.

“In that situation, I just kinda wanted to hit the ball hard somewhere and I wasn’t thinking too much about the matchup,” Conforto said. “I think that’s the key to having success in those situations. It felt good.”

Good as it felt — and looked — manager Terry Collins said after the game that he isn’t ready to change his plan of having Conforto platoon with Juan Lagares.

“We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games,” Collins said. “This is not a time to develop players.”

Asked if the platoon is a matter of getting Lagares’ glove in the game, he said, “I want his bat in there against lefties.”

That decision might not prove to be popular with Mets fans, who have been enamored of Conforto since he debuted on July 24 last year and managed to hold his own.

Conforto, the Mets’ first-round draft pick in 2014, also was anything but a wide-eyed rookie in the postseason, with his most impressive day being his two-homer game in Game 4 of the World Series.

Conforto looked good in spring training and has had a red-hot start to the season. In the Mets’ season opener in Kansas City, he reached base four times, including a double, a single and two walks.

There’s little doubt that Conforto likes to hit no matter who is throwing the ball. And he liked facing a lefthander Friday.

“I think you always have to be expecting to be in the game and be expecting to have those opportunities,” he said. “I’ll prepare every game to get those matchups and be the guy up there. If it happens to not be me, I’ll be cheering for my team, excited for whoever is going up there to get the job done.

“I think you have to make sure you’re ready for those at-bats, but either way, I’m going to be excited for my team.”

With Marc Carig

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