BOSTON — Facing an immediate need for a healthy player, particularly one able to play the infield, the Mets called up Danny Mendick on Saturday.
The day before that, when they sought a fill-in for Starling Marte, who had gone on the injured list, they decided on Mark Vientos.
A couple of weeks ago, they selected a player who had put up strong numbers with Triple-A Syracuse: DJ Stewart.
Each time, the Mets feasibly could have fit Ronny Mauricio, one of their top prospects, onto the roster — if they so wanted. Before every such move, general manager Billy Eppler said, he surveys the player-development staff and other sections of the front office on whether Mauricio would be the right choice. So far, the answers have been no.
The short answer: They just don’t think he is ready.
The longer answer includes: They want him to keep learning second base and leftfield, positions new to him this season; they want him to keep improving as a hitter, especially continuing to cut down the frequency with which he chases pitches outside the strike zone; and they don’t want to promote him from Syracuse unless they have everyday playing time available for him in the majors.
On the last point, that is not the case yet. Mendick, Vientos and Stewart are bench players. (But check back for more major openings after the Aug. 1 trade deadline.)
“There’s still objectives that we need to have him achieve before we launch him up here, both offensively and defensively,” Eppler said in an interview Sunday with Newsday. “We’re just waiting to see him achieve more of these objectives, but extremely happy and proud of how he’s going to come through this year. And we feel at some point in the future, his number is going to come.”
The defensive questions for Mauricio, 22, have not gone away. Since the Mets have shortstop Francisco Lindor at Mauricio’s natural position, they have worked to expand his defensive repertoire, an ongoing effort.
At second base, Mauricio is getting used to turning double plays and giving/taking more throws from the opposite side of the bag than he is used to, Eppler said. And in the outfield, he is figuring out how to read the spin of batted balls (including how fly balls and line drives from lefthanders compare to those from righthanders), among other items.
The tricky part: The best way to learn is to play those positions in games (with reading balls during batting practice also helpful). That is easier in the minors, so that is where the Mets have left him.
“The game teaches certain things that you need to just play baseball games to have happen,” Eppler said. “And when it happens up here, there’s higher stakes.”
As Mauricio said in spring training: “That’s the biggest thing — to be able to get the experience needed, to get the reps.”
The Mets don’t have plans right now to introduce any additional spots into Mauricio’s skill set. He has “a pretty full plate” already, Eppler said.
Offensively, Mauricio’s numbers look gaudy. After hitting a walk-off home run Saturday and collecting another two hits and two walks Sunday, he is batting .297 with an .856 OPS on the season. He has totaled 16 homers, 25 doubles and 56 RBIs.
But after a huge April/May, Mauricio has a .220 average and .704 OPS since the start of June.
Eppler said Mauricio, a switch-hitter, has made improvements with his righthanded swing and his overall chase rate — long a hole in his game.
“He’s moved from a number that was not really sustainable at the major-league level. Now he’s in a spot that’s showing improvement there,” Eppler said. “But still room to improve there. Because pitchers at this level, they spend more time or . . . have more resources at their disposal and they execute better.”
And so the work will continue — in the minors — for Mauricio.
“His time is coming," Eppler said. "But right now there’s still some things we need to see. Just working on his overall decision-making: when to swing, when to not. He’s made really good improvement there. Like, really good improvement. As long as we keep seeing him on that trajectory, I don’t think it’s going to be that much longer.”