JUPITER, Fla. — Spring training statistics have virtually no predictive value, but a glance at the major-league leaderboards reveals at least one interesting tidbit: Pete Alonso leads everybody with 37 at-bats.
That is by design, Alonso and Mets manager Luis Rojas said.
Around the time J.D. Davis hurt his shoulder last month, thus freeing up time in leftfield for natural first baseman Dominic Smith, Alonso approached Rojas and asked to play in more Grapefruit League games.
He has played in six of seven contests — he’s the only regular who has played that regularly — since a team day off March 2.
“He wanted to get in there and hit,” Rojas said. “That’s why he’s been in there most of the time.”
Alonso added: “I did a good job preparing myself, getting my body ready to play games. For me, in order to get my timing, I need live ABs. What better way than getting into the game?”
About getting that timing at the plate: Alonso says it is coming. His numbers — which, again, should not be read into at this time of year — are poor, including a .243 average and .297 slugging percentage. He hasn’t homered or walked. In a 1-1 tie with the Marlins on Monday, he went 1-for-3, and the hit was a windblown pop-up that fell in on the right side of the infield.
“Mis-hit it, but it is nice when those fall in,” Alonso said. “Sometimes the whole goal is to hit it where they’re not, and they weren’t there.”
Alonso’s performance is dramatically different from last year’s spring training, when he blasted the first pitch of his first game over the fence and never really slowed down on his way to winning a spot on the Opening Day roster (and then National League Rookie of the Year honors).
But Alonso, an expert on his own Februarys and Marches, is here to tell you: “Last year was an anomaly.” In 2018, for example, he hit .133 with no extra-base hits in a dozen games in his first major-league spring training. It was similar in 2017, his first camp as a professional, when he was an occasional call-up from the minor-league side, he said.
“In 2017 and 2018, it took basically the whole spring training to get my timing,” Alonso said. “I’m appreciative of last spring, because the timing was perfect. Now it’s like, well, I’m not necessarily worried too much, but I’m just going to keep working at it, keep grinding and be ready for Opening Day.”
For now, Alonso said it is enough that he is “making quality swing decisions.”
“If I square them up or mis-hit them a little bit, right now it doesn’t necessarily hold too much meaning,” he said. “I want to make good, consistent swing decisions at pitches I can drive. I swung at some good pitches today. I’ve been swinging at a lot of quality pitches as of late. Now it’s just a matter of stringing everything together, taking some different components and morphing it together.”
Alonso has two weeks of exhibition games left to do that (minus Tuesday and Wednesday, when Rojas said he will be off from major-league games). And then?
“I’m trying to get as ready as possible for 180 games,” he said.
Yes, 180. Not your standard 162. Alonso expects to be playing in the postseason.
It all starts here, in a spring training vastly different from the kind he experienced a year ago, when he had to beat out Smith and others to make the team.
“I wouldn’t say calmer, but I have peace of mind knowing what I can do,” Alonso said. "I’m still being my diligent self, still going about my routine, still doing my work seriously, still having fun with the guys.
“It’s more peace of mind knowing what I can do and how I can compete at a high level. I know I can do that. Now it’s a matter of getting ready to go win a championship.”