ATLANTA — Publicly designated as the clubhouse leader of one of the National League’s hottest teams to open the year, Robinson Cano is the epitome of the calm, cool and collected Mets.
When he laces a single to the outfield, he moseys to first base. When an opposing batter sends a grounder in his direction, he fields and fires as smoothly and nonchalantly as anyone, seemingly never in a hurry but always on time. And when he found himself on the bench Saturday for a scheduled day off, his first non-start of 2019, he showed no degree of worry about his season-opening slump.
“Honestly, seriously, I feel good. It’s not that I feel lost at the plate,” Cano said, resting in a recliner in the visitors’ clubhouse at SunTrust Park. “I don’t worry. I’m not concerned. I’m going to be working and doing my thing and keep my head up.”
Cano batted .182 with a .237 OBP and .327 slugging percentage while starting all of the Mets’ first 13 games. He hits third in one of the highest-scoring lineups in baseball, but along with Brandon Nimmo — also sitting Saturday — is one of the few Mets not performing up to their personal standard.
In addition to striking out more and walking less than he usually does, Cano hasn’t been hitting the ball nearly as hard. His average hit speed of 85 mph is well below his usual mark of about 90 mph.
Still, it’s early. Cano considered his output Friday night against the Braves — one scorched double and two hard lineouts — encouraging.
“The results aren’t what I want, but … I’ve been in this situation before,” Cano said. “It’s too early for me to start worrying about numbers or anything. We’re winning. For me, that’s what matters.”
Cano acknowledged, too, that it’s an adjustment switching to the NL after spending the first 14 seasons of his major-league career in the AL. It’s an almost entirely new field of pitchers to learn, “but that’s not an excuse.”
Like Cano, manager Mickey Callaway wasn’t sweating the slow start.
“He is still Robinson Cano in our lineup,” Callaway said. “When they have their advance meeting over there, he’s the guy in the lineup that you’re going, ‘Don’t let Robinson beat us.’ That’s always a challenge. I’m sure he’s been through that for years and years and will adjust.
“I’m sure he would’ve liked to have swung the bat better at times, but he's had some big homers for us, some big hits. His leadership is off the charts. He’s an unbelievable piece of this team and one of the reasons we’re clicking right now, for sure.”
Callaway informed Cano before the Mets left New York on Wednesday that he would be off Saturday, the manager’s lineups often determined days ahead of time. He picked Saturday because it was the middle mark of a stretch of nine games in nine days — the Mets’ first such stretch this season — and the Mets faced a lefthander, Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb.
Cano didn’t love the idea, noting Saturday afternoon, “I don’t like days off, but sometimes you have to go with that.”
“He wants to play every day,” Callaway said. “He understood it because it made so much sense."
Darlling to have surgery
Ron Darling announced during Saturday night's SNY broadcast that he is taking a leave of absence from the SNY booth to focus on his health. He will have surgery next week, and hopes to be back as soon as next month.
Frazier plays, waits
No word yet on when exactly Todd Frazier (strained left oblique) will rejoin the Mets, but Callaway said again Saturday that Frazier is close.
He was hitting only .207 with no extra-base hits in his first eight rehab games, though.
“It matters a little bit,” Callaway said of Frazier’s minor-league results. “We want to see him succeed and get through it. I think probably it’s a small part of it. We want to also get his feedback.”
The Mets’ first series against Bryce Harper’s Phillies will feature a marquee pitching matchup Monday night on ESPN: Noah Syndergaard against Aaron Nola. It’ll be Steven Matz vs. Nick Pivetta on Tuesday and Zack Wheeler vs. Jake Arrieta in a matinee Wednesday … Pete Alonso appeared to engage the Braves’ mascot, Blooper, in a pregame push-up contest. Jeff McNeil watched. It’s not clear who won.