WASHINGTON — Newly added to the Mets’ roster, Travis Jankowski feels ready for the responsibility — which hasn’t always been the case in his journeys as a backup outfielder.
He figures to be a late-inning defensive replacement, pinch runner and occasional pinch hitter for a team that has a steady-looking starting outfield in Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte. He has had similar jobs in recent years with the Phillies, Reds and Padres.
It is a bit role and one he is OK with — especially having just won a job during spring training after joining the Mets on a minor-league contract.
“I’ve done this for a good bit of my career, so I know how to handle it, I know how to stay fresh,” he said Thursday. “Early in my career, I was getting loose way too early. I didn’t understand, jeez, why am I not pinch hitting in the fifth? Why is that guy pinch hitting in the fifth? It took me a while to be like, ‘Dude, you’re a defensive replacement. You’re a speed threat late in the game. You don’t need to get loose in the third inning.’ There was definitely a learning curve for me.”
Jankowski’s return to New York comes a decade after he starred for the 2012 Stony Brook squad that made the College World Series. He was drafted by San Diego in the first round that year.
“I am thrilled,” Jankowski said. “I can’t tell you how many people from Stony Brook have reached out and said congrats. It’s awesome. Great to be back.”
Nimmo (neck muscle spasms) felt improved again Thursday but was not in the lineup against the Nationals. He had left open the possibility of talking his way into the starting nine, depending on how his afternoon workout went, but it didn’t happen.
“If we were in a little different situation, we probably could and would push the envelope,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not smart [for] game one.”
Nimmo said: “There is something special about Opening Day. I would love to be a part of it, but you do have to keep the long-term in mind. That is the perspective right now.”
Count the Mets among the teams that at least sometimes will use PitchCom, the new, MLB-approved system that allows catchers and pitchers to communicate and call pitches electronically.
“We’ve been doing it since day one when it came out [at the start of spring training],” Showalter said. “We just felt it was smart to prepare for that. Our guys every day have embraced it more and more. We’re not going to force it on anybody, but our guys have been using it for quite a while. They understand how it works.”
Showalter spoke to the team during its game-planning meeting Wednesday night, but apparently only briefly. “Sometimes you gotta know when to shut up and get out,” he said. “They handled most of it. They said everything I would’ve said.” . . . James McCann is not facing any limitations to open the season despite missing a week of the shortened spring training because of back tightness, Showalter said . . . Expect to see each Mets hitter get at least one start and each reliever make at least one appearance this series. “I want to make sure everybody gets off and running,” Showalter said, “because we’re going to need all of them.”
Friday night’s game will be available exclusively on Apple TV+, the first game in the streaming service’s slate of Friday night doubleheaders. Melanie Newman will handle the play-by-play call with former Mets and Yankees outfielder Chris Young and Hannah Keyser as analysts and Brooke Fletcher as the reporter. Newman is a member of the Orioles’ broadcast team. — NEIL BEST