PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Michael Conforto has received a stay of demotion.
The outfielder had been ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. But with centerfielder Juan Lagares expected to begin the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, Conforto became the only healthy alternative to starter Curtis Granderson in centerfield.
“I just need to focus on my job, and right now that’s coming off the bench,” Conforto said during the Mets’ intrasquad scrimmage, a 5-4 win over Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday. “As long as I keep doing my job, good things will happen. I just need to focus on what I have right now — that is a spot on the big-league roster, an opportunity to help the team win games late in the game, give guys a blow when they need it.”
The scrimmage, held on the final day of spring training, featured two bullpen catchers in the lineup as designated hitters, Jay Bruce playing first base and Wilmer Flores homering while wearing David Wright’s jersey.
Dave Racaniello, the Mets’ longtime bullpen catcher, even singled off Jacob deGrom, who allowed a run in three innings. The pitcher could barely hide his laughter when Racaniello stepped into the batter’s box.
Meanwhile, Conforto patrolled center, one last shot in case he’s needed. He will serve as the Mets’ top pinch hitter, and manager Terry Collins called him a “legitimate threat.”
“We’ll do the best we can to make sure he gets at-bats he’ll need to stay sharp,” Collins said. “As you guys know, the closers in our division are righthanded. So he’s going to have to face some tough assignments. For a young guy, that’s a lot to ask, but we think he can do it.”
Conforto, a former first-round pick, would have been squeezed out of a crowded outfield if not for Lagares’ injury. He hit .300 in 60 at-bats in spring training.
Once he’s officially placed on the 10-day disabled list, Lagares will be eligible to return April 10. Brandon Nimmo (hamstring) and David Wright (shoulder) also will be placed on the DL along with Steven Matz.
Conforto will be on the bench with Flores, backup catcher Rene Rivera, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, who will be added to the 40-man roster, taking the spot of closer Jeurys Familia once he is suspended.