Tommy Pham has played a lot lately. Mark Canha has not. He doesn’t like it, but he gets it.
“The situation speaks for itself. I see what’s happening. It’s clear as day,” Canha said. “Tommy is red hot, swinging a really good bat for a while now. This whole month, he’s been really hot. So he’s gotta play. He’s gotta be in there to help us win. We need all the pieces in there that we can to help us win right now. There’s obviously a sense of urgency right now."
Pham opened the season as the Mets’ backup outfielder and part-time DH, but by virtue of hitting the ball harder than anybody on the team — even harder than Pete Alonso — and looking quite spry in leftfield, he became manager Buck Showalter’s top choice at the position about three weeks ago.
For as much as the Mets lean on advanced statistics, which was part of the reason they stuck with Pham during his early-season struggles, the traditional numbers are plenty supportive of Pham’s large playing-time share. Entering play Friday, when the Mets began a three-game series against the Giants, Pham ranked eighth in the majors in average (.345) and sixth in slugging percentage (.632) since May 25.
He has left Showalter with little choice: Keep him in the lineup.
As a result, Canha has gotten squeezed out. He is batting .245 with a .725 OPS in 68 games this season.
Canha's start in rightfield Friday, spotting a struggling Starling Marte, was just his fifth in the outfield in June. He also played first base when Alonso was out briefly.
“I’m kind of used to it. I’ve been in these part-time roles before,” Canha said. “It’s tougher to find rhythm and make adjustments and know what’s going to work when you need it to work. That being said, I think I’m good at doing it.
“It’s not the easiest thing to do. But I think what I’ve learned from being in these roles is they often change very quickly. One thing can happen, one injury or one good game and it can flip on a dime. The key is just keeping your head in the game and being prepared for those moments when they do come up so they don’t feel foreign.”
That is Canha’s approach to this sort of playing-time slump: Stay locked in and fully paying attention while on the bench.
“It’s important for me and it also keeps you positive if you’re always in the game and you’re always feeling like you’re part of it when you’re not actually,” he said. “It keeps your attitude and it gives you a purpose and keeps you from checking out. That’s the worst thing you can do.”
Showalter said: “I don’t know if people completely appreciate: Mark’s just a pro. He’s as good a professional as I’ve had. He gets it.”
Canha chooses patience over anything resembling anger or bitterness.
“It's a natural instinct for me, to be able to handle something like this,” Canha said. “I understand it’s a long season.”
Quintana’s latest step
Jose Quintana tossed 64 pitches across 2 2/3 innings in his rehabilitation start with Triple-A Syracuse on Friday, leaving uncertain if he indeed will return to the majors next week.
The Mets long have expected Quintana, who has been out since having rib surgery in March, to make his team debut in the final days before the All-Star break. But Friday afternoon, Showalter left open the possibility that Quintana instead stays in the minors until afterward.
Quintana has maxed out at four innings in his rehab appearances.
“There are two modes of operation, depending on how everything goes tonight,” Showalter said before Quintana pitched. “We’d like to see him get a start before the [All-Star] break, or you keep him pitching [in the minors] and build him up even more. Both of them are going to be fine.
“It’s more about pitch count and how he feels physically. If you base rehab guys on exactly how they do, I don’t know if anybody would get off rehab.”