To try to shore up their bench until reinforcements are healthy, the Mets called up catcher Jose Lobaton Friday.
The move isn’t so much about Lobaton’s unimposing bat as it is the flexibility his presence as a third catcher offers the Mets. The Mets can now, for example, more easily use Devin Mesoraco or Kevin Plawecki — whichever isn’t starting on a given day — to pinch hit without worrying about running out of backstops.
It also allows the Mets to play Plawecki at first, as he will Saturday against the Cubs, manager Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets will face lefthanded starters Saturday (Mike Montgomery) and Sunday (Jon Lester). They have struggled against lefties this year and are indefinitely without their go-to first baseman against southpaws, Wilmer Flores (sore lower back).
“Obviously we’ve been struggling against lefties,” Callaway said. “We need to change something up. We thought that this would be our most advantageous way to get some more offense in the lineup any given night.”
Plawecki worked out at first Friday afternoon and has some in-game experience there, including two appearances last year and sporadic time through five minor-league seasons.
Callaway indicated the Mets would call up a position player Friday after they played the previous two days with just three reserves. That Lobaton — who the Mets designated for assignment May 19 — got the call underscores the team’s lack of depth at the moment.
In addition to several injuries to the major-league roster, infielder Gavin Cecchini is on the Triple-A disabled list. Catcher Tomas Nido and utility man Phillip Evans were up recently enough that they aren’t eligible to return to the majors (unless the Mets put somebody on the DL).
That left the Mets with one 40-man option: first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith, a lefthanded hitter who has fared well against lefties this year but less so in seasons past.
Plawecki doesn’t have a strong track record against lefthanders — a career .196/.277/.290 slash line — but the Mets don’t have too many options right now.
“In the next few days, until [Yoenis Cespedes] is back, maybe we can take advantage of this and have that third catcher,” Callaway said.
Waiting on Yo
The Mets don’t have much in terms of a public timeline for Cespedes’ return from a strained right hip flexor, but Callaway indicated he didn’t expect Cespedes back for the Yankee series next weekend.
Third baseman Todd Frazier (strained left hamstring), who is already on a rehab assignment with Las Vegas, is a safer bet to be back by then.
“It would be nice to have both,” Callaway said. “I think we’ll have one of them back for sure.”
The Mets miss Cespedes. That much is clear to Callaway.
“It’s been big. We count on his offense,” Callaway said. “We paid him a lot of money to come out there and produce and we don’t have him right now so it’s been tough, especially when we’re facing lefties.
“He’s getting closer. He’s doing a really good job. He feels great. When he starts getting out there where we can get him some reps at his actual position in practice, things are going to go really fast.”
To make room for Lobaton on the 40-man and 25-man rosters, the Mets designated righthander Scott Copeland for assignment. He spent two days with the team, pitching in one game (1 1⁄3 scoreless innings Thursday) . . . Callaway on Jacob deGrom, who carries an NL-best 1.52 ERA into his start Saturday: “In my mind, he’s having the best year in the National League.”