PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets’ foremost slugging prospect, on the cusp of making it to the big leagues, decided this week to take his identity into his own hands, to tell the world who he really is.
The man formerly known as Peter Alonso is now . . . Pete Alonso, which is how most everybody in his life already knew him. He communicated his preference through the Mets’ public relations staff.
As for Alonso’s attempt to win the first-base job, manager Mickey Callaway said he has been impressed with his defensive abilities — and improvements.
“To be the defender that he is today, from what I’ve seen in drills, is amazing compared to what I heard a year ago at this time,” Callaway said. “He looks great. His footwork is unbelievable, his ability to throw the ball on target has been really uncanny. He can throw from all different angles, which is not easy to do sometimes for a bigger guy. He’s got great body control. He’s done a great job.”
Alonso is competing against Dominic Smith, Todd Frazier and J.D. Davis. Defense has long been considered his weakness — and it still pales in comparison with his immense power at the plate — but he has been working at it, regularly taking extra ground balls with the help of infield coach Gary DiSarcina and infield coordinator Tim Teufel in recent days.
“He’s going to work,” Callaway said. “He has the skills and athletic ability to be a very, very good defender at first.”
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman will only be relievers during camp, Callaway said. They will not stretch out as starters. This long appeared to be the case, but Callaway’s comments were the first time the Mets acknowledged it publicly.
“I would not be surprised if sometime in the future, those guys are starting pitchers again,” Callaway said. “I love our [rotation] depth. And that allows us to keep those two guys in the bullpen and become that much better of a team and a bullpen because of that.”
Last season, as he bounced between the bullpen and rotation, Lugo was consistent in his preference to be a starter. This spring, he acquiesced.
Said Callaway, “The thing about Lugo is he wants to win more than he wants personal accolades.”
Lowrie MRI: Good news
An MRI on infielder Jed Lowrie’s knee revealed no significant damage, the Mets said Thursday night. They plan for him not to play until he is 100 percent, so it’s not clear when Lowrie will participate fully in workouts or exhibition games. Callaway said Wednesday the hope is to have him ready for the regular season. Lowrie said Wednesday that his knee had been hurting for several days . . . Although most of Jeff McNeil’s reps in camp are coming in the outfield, he isn’t abandoning his infield roots completely. He spent a few minutes working at second with DiSarcina after practice, “just to keep him connected,” DiSarcina said . . . Callaway on bullpen construction: “As a manager, I would like to have that second lefty. [But] I don’t think it’s a necessity on how we’re built and how our bullpen is now.” . . . WFAN’s Mike Francesa took in Thursday’s workout with his family.