Ronny Mauricio is on the move again — but not to the majors.
In their continued attempt to turn the 22-year-old shortstop into a super-utilityman, the Mets introduced him to leftfield this week, general manager Billy Eppler revealed Friday. For now, that is limited to drills and other work before games, but they plan for him to get into games there with Triple-A Syracuse at some point.
Mauricio began learning second base in mid-April and dabbled at third base while playing in the Dominican Winter League. Outfield was the natural next frontier.
“We know Ronny can play on the left side of the infield,” Eppler said. “We know we can put Ronny at second base in a major-league game, too. But we also want to see how that athleticism can play in the outfield. All the indicators, all the measurables tell us he should be able to acclimate out there as well.
“And he’s excited about it. He just wants to do whatever he can do. The more versatility, the more tools in his toolbelt, the better for him and his career, the better for the Mets.”
Outfield coordinator Shane Robinson and the Syracuse staff, led by manager Dick Scott, will decide when Mauricio is ready to be “launched” into left in a game, Eppler said.
The Mets chose leftfield over center or right as Mauricio’s first outfield exposure because the angles of batted balls will be most familiar to him, given that he is a shortstop by trade, Eppler said.
After Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos began the season with him in Syracuse, Mauricio is the last top prospect remaining there. The more positions he can play, the more likely it is that the Mets can take advantage of his bat. He was hitting .336 with a .377 OBP and .550 slugging percentage entering play Friday.
Eppler mentioned Jeff McNeil, DJ LeMahieu and Enrique Hernandez — all of whom have fashioned lengthy careers and/or received big contracts partly as a result of their versatility — as models for Mauricio.
“We’ve seen the amount of impact it can have for rosters to have players play multiple positions,” Eppler said. “I think he’s excited about it. It sounded that way on the phone.”
Locastro checks in
Tim Locastro said doctors initially estimated he would return from his right thumb injury — a fracture in addition to a torn ligament — in six to eight weeks. That would bring him to the All-Star break in mid-July after surgery two weeks ago.
Originally placed on the injured list with what the Mets called back spasms, Locastro was nearing the end of a rehab assignment with Syracuse when he got hurt sliding into a base and on a swing. Medical imaging showed that his thumb was “all messed up,” he said.
“It was just unfortunate. Literally a day or two before I was supposed to come back,” he said. “Surgery and everything went well. Day by day right now. Get to start lifting and stuff. I’m excited.”
Mark Vientos started Friday, when the Mets were slated to face a righthander in Chris Bassitt, because “I don’t want him to sit too long, just like all our guys,” manager Buck Showalter said. He also will play Sunday against lefthander Yusei Kikuchi . . . The Mets acquired righthanded reliever Vinny Nittoli from the Cubs for cash. Nittoli, 32, had a 3.48 ERA in Triple-A . . . Eppler said the Mets expect Omar Narvaez (left calf strain) back “at some point next week.” But they aren’t tipping their hand about who will lose his roster spot. As Showalter put it, “Those things have a way of working themselves out.” . . . At the start of an impromptu media session, Eppler said he was groggy because he had just returned from “looking at baseball players” in Japan.