LOS ANGELES — It took weeks longer than they wanted, but the Mets finally are starting to see the version of Wilson Ramos they thought they were signing in December: an offensive threat at catcher, which the Mets have lacked in recent years but specifically sought over the winter.
Ramos was hitting .381 with a .469 OBP and .690 slugging percentage in his past 14 games heading into play Tuesday, critical offensive production at a time when the Mets are missing Jeff McNeil, Robinson Cano and Brandon Nimmo (and for part of that stretch were without Michael Conforto).
“We’re counting on him even when those guys are here,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s an offensive catcher. We’re counting on him to hit in the middle of our lineup, do some damage and drive in some runs. He’s made some good adjustments in the last week and a half. Hopefully he can continue that pace.”
Ramos had three homers in his past three games before Tuesday. Before that, just two long balls in 45 games. The difference, according to Ramos: more extension on his swing, which allows him to hit the ball in the air more often. That has alleviated the self-imposed pressure he had been feeling.
“When I got in that slump, I got pressure because I want to help my team,” Ramos said. “I was working, working, working and was still hitting a lot of ground balls. That made me feel frustrated with myself. The only thing we can do to fix that is work.”
Mets catchers this year have a .663 OPS, which ranks 22nd in the majors. Ramos continuing to be his regular self at the plate will help that.
“When you want to do some damage and hit some extra-base hits and hit some homers, you gotta catch that ball out in front of home plate, get the barrel there,” Callaway said. “He’s been doing that successfully lately.”
Syndergaard coming to grips
Something to watch for when Noah Syndergaard faces the Dodgers on Wednesday: Will he have his slider back? Callaway said Syndergaard and pitching coach Dave Eiland have been tinkering with different grips for that pitch, previously Syndergaard’s best but a stunningly ineffective option in 2019.
Last year, opposing hitters hit .203 and slugged .233 against it, according to Brooks Baseball. This year, those numbers are .268 and .512.
“When you have your best weapon taken away from you, your confidence can waver a little bit,” Callaway said. “A lot of it had to do with grip early, his ability to be able to grip it. And then it turned into a slightly different pitch with a lower velo, probably because he was holding onto it a little bit different way to get a better grip. Now that the grip is no longer a factor, he’s lost some confidence in it, because it has gotten hit around a little bit.”
Syndergaard has a 4.93 ERA — the highest of his career by more than 1.50 — in 11 starts.
A familiar name
As the Mets considered claiming outfielder Aaron Altherr off waivers last week, among those to chime in was Ruben Amaro Jr., a special assistant to the general manager. In 2009, in his first draft as Phillies GM, Amaro’s front office used its ninth-round pick on Altherr, a high schooler who Philadelphia briefly considered putting at third base.
Amaro still sees a lot of the same foundation that made Altherr appealing a decade ago.
“It’s still the same athlete. It’s just a matter of, like anything else, getting into a rhythm,” said Amaro, who is in Los Angeles with the team this series. “He’s always been such a good guy. You root for those guys.”
The Mets outrighted outfielder Rajai Davis to Triple-A Syracuse. He cleared waivers after being designated for assignment Sunday … Robinson Cano (strained left quadriceps) hit on the field Tuesday for the first time since getting hurt … Seth Lugo (right shoulder tendinitis) won’t be activated from the injured list when eligible Thursday. He will throw his first bullpen session “in the next couple of days if everything feels good,” Callaway said. And he’ll need at least a couple of bullpen sessions before potentially throwing live batting practice and returning.