Amed Rosario is only 22 years old, and even in this age of hyper-speed advancement, it’s still very young to be a starting player in the major leagues. Knowing that, let’s pretend for a minute Sunday was his Mets’ debut at Citi Field, and you watched him crush a pair of home runs in the 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
What would the impression be? You would come away thrilled that the Mets finally had their own Gleyber Torres or Ozzie Albies, a can’t-miss kid with power, presence and plate savvy. Not only did Rosario look the part, you’d say, but he lived up to his reputation by ambushing a Clay Buchholz hanger for the tying homer in the sixth inning, then went back-to-back with Asdrubal Cabrera in the seventh.
Here was the Mets’ franchise shortstop. Just as they promised you.
But Sunday wasn’t Rosario’s first day in a Mets’ uniform. It was Game No. 86, and he arrived for work against the Diamondbacks with a history. A brief one, but enough to make you skeptical, to wonder where the real Rosario — the one you had been promised — was hiding. Rosario showed up Sunday hitting .238, without a home run in 138 plate appearances, and a meek .580 OPS.
The prevailing opinion on Rosario, less than 100 games into his career? Meh.
We weren’t wrong to think that way. But then you see flashes like Sunday, when Rosario is able to tap into that potential, and the Mets can surf his energy, and the imagination runs wild again. That’s when it’s important to remember that Rosario still is relatively new at this, and not everyone is an overnight success. Maybe Rosario can get there.
“What you saw today is nothing,” said Jose Reyes, who has come to know Rosario better than anyone in the organization. “He’s got all the tools. But he’s still learning and it takes time.”
Ah, yes. Patience. Something that’s in short supply in Flushing, a place with an overabundance of used hubcaps and dashed hopes. It doesn’t help that when you look around the majors at the 22-and-under crowd, you see Rosario at the bottom of that precocious list, well below the Braves’ Albies and Ronald Acuna, the Yankees’ Torres, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Red Sox’s Rafael Devers.
The Mets are waiting on Rosario, fingers crossed, imagining the day when he becomes that consistent spark, the kind that can ignite an entire lineup. They cling to the process, visualize Rosario’s ceiling, and consider Sunday’s breakout a possible step in that direction. The Mets need Rosario be that player. Will he be?
“I think so,” Mickey Callaway said. “I think he can definitely be impactful.”
The manager went on to list the many facets of Rosario’s game — strength, speed, the defensive ability — but described them as if they were dormant to some degree, needing to be stirred up. His glovework was “really solid,” the “raw power was there,” the disruptive element on the basepaths had yet to “translate” in games.
And that’s been the conundrum all along with Rosario. He’s just sort of there, standing over at shortstop, hitting in his customary No. 9 slot, and never really doing much to seize the spotlight. This Mets team, which has barely treaded water since that electric 11-1 start, is begging for their own Albies or Acuna or Torres. From what we’ve been led to believe, that’s who Rosario can be, a player that brings voltage to a roster.
Rosario did that Sunday. The Mets were sleepwalking through the first five innings, and Buchholz had retired 10 straight before Rosario led off the sixth by smacking that 0-and-1 curveball onto the leftfield sundeck. He instantly brought a restless Citi Field to life with that swing, and later piggybacked on Cabrera’s mojo by attacking Jorge De La Rosa’s first-pitch fastball in the seventh. Rosario became the youngest Met to go deep twice in in one game since Lastings Milledge, who beat him by four days, did it in 2007 at Shea Stadium.
“For me, it was amazing,” said Rosario, who only occasionally leans on an interpreter now. “This year, I’m feeling more comfortable compared to last year.”
That’s a good sign. And if Rosario continues making progress, however slowly, the Mets will gladly ride those bumps along the learning curve.