If you ask Mets manager Mickey Callaway, he’ll tell you that Michael Conforto’s struggles this season come down to timing. Naturally, it’s time in the lineup that he needs to break his monthlong slump.
Not time on the bench.
Hitting .186 with a .647 OPS since June 1, Conforto was not in the starting lineup against the Phillies on Tuesday night. Ty Kelly played leftfield and hit seventh in Conforto’s place. Callaway said before the game that it’s simply a maintenance day for Conforto after he played both ends of Monday’s doubleheader, going 0-for-6 with two walks.
“It was set in motion before the doubleheader,” Callaway said. “We knew we were going to play both games with him and we were going to have to rest either him or [Brandon] Nimmo . . . It was just really a scheduled day off for him.”
In late June, the Mets opted to give Amed Rosario a mental break by benching him from June 24-26. He pinch hit in each of those games and has just three hits in 22 at-bats since he was reinstated at shortstop.
Callaway said that Conforto will return to the lineup Wednesday, even though he is hitting .133 (6-for-45) in 14 games since June 25.
“It’s all a timing thing,” Callaway said. “I think that right now, if he can get that bat in a position that’s two inches out in front where he’s got it right now, he’s going to be OK. You see him taking good swings at the ball, and he’s fouling them straight back. It’s like he’s just nicking them. It’s because he’s just a tad late. I think that if we just sat him for three days, that’s not going to help a timing issue.”
The circumstances of Conforto’s struggles are also different from those of Rosario’s. Since his debut in 2017, Rosario hasn’t established himself as a serviceable hitter, producing a .641 OPS entering play Tuesday.
Conforto was the team’s lone All-Star in 2017 and hit .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs and 68 RBIs before dislocating his shoulder on Aug. 25 and missing the rest of the season.
Amid his struggles, Conforto still has found ways to help. He has a 15.1 percent walk rate (ninth-best in the majors) and a .340 on-base percentage, so it’s not as if he’s been an automatic out. The Mets’ offense, however, certainly would benefit from a prolonged hot streak.
“I think the hitting coaches still feel like he’s really close,” Callaway said. “We’ve felt that probably in Arizona [last month], and he had some big hits, then kind of went through another down cycle recently.”
Conforto, who got an RBI groundout as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning Tuesday night, is hitting just .151 (19-for-126) with three home runs in 38 games at Citi Field this season. Callaway didn’t mince words: The offense isn’t the same without him producing.
Said Callaway: “We need Michael Conforto to hit well to succeed.”