Amed Rosario’s only crime, it seems, was not becoming a franchise shortstop overnight. That tends to happen in New York, where the learning curve is as steep as Everest, and everyone marks your progress with a stopwatch.
So if we’re using a calendar instead, then how does a little over two years sound? That amounts to 321 games, the number Rosario had logged after two more hits Tuesday night in the Mets’ 9-2 rout of the Indians at Citi Field. And if you still think he’s not a franchise shortstop yet, then maybe just be a bit more patient.
Rosario is only 23 -- younger than Pete Alonso (24), Michael Conforto (26) and Jeff McNeil (27) -- yet has suddenly become an indispensble Met. You just don’t hear about him quite as much because he’s not smashing homers at a franchise-record pace like Polar Bear Pete, or chasing a batting title like Squirrel Jeff.
All Rosario has done is plow through the growing pains and transform himself into a player that can not only be trusted, but relied upon. Rosario went 2-for-3 with a walk Tuesday, and his RBI single off Indians’ sidearmer Adam Cimber in the seventh inning was the first run of the Mets’ four-run rally with two outs.
“People are a little worried about Amed Rosario at this point,” Mickey Callaway said of their opponents, “because he’s put himself in a position where he’s dangerous no matter what the situation is.”
Since June 1, Rosario is batting .329 (fifth in the NL) with six homers, 25 RBIs, 10 steals and an .842 OPS over that 67-game stretch. He’s also reached base safely in 31 of his last 34 games, with nine multi-hit games already this month.
The story behind Tuesday’s first-inning single is a study in Rosarios’ aggressiveness. Making his 24th start in the leadoff spot -- second only to the injured McNeill (81) -- Rosario ripped the opening pitch, a 93-mph fastball from Shane Bieber, into the left-centerfield gap. Rosario was thinking double all the way, but Indians’ centerfielder Greg Allen cleanly cut off the ball on the run and fired a perfect throw that nailed Rosario easily at second.
“That’s the kind of player he is,” Callaway said, “and I love it.”
The Mets will take that from Rosario, who now does far more good with his physical skills. And busting it hard for second shows that he’s grown from his July benching for doing just the opposite, cruising into first base when a misplay should have put him into scoring position instead.
“I’ve learned a whole bunch,” Rosario said Tuesday through an interpreter. “When we first get to the league, we think we know everything. But luckily for me, I’ve been able to take all the advice and all the criticism and all the lessons in. Right now, I’ve just been happy with it all.”
The Mets have been thrilled. Teams officials had talked about Rosario’s future being in centerfield, as they were concerned about his defensive progress at shortstop. But they scrapped those plans earlier this month -- despite his emergency cameo in left Sunday -- and we get the sense that conversation is over. Rosario’s defensive metrics, hurt by a weak first half, suggest that he’s not adequate at the position. Watching him now, however, paints a different picture, with smoother range and an ability to make plays that he wasn’t previously.
Rosario didn’t burst onto the scene like a Ronald Acuna Jr., Cody Bellinger or Juan Soto, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get reach All-Star status, maybe by the ripe old age of 25. Remember how Alonso would never be good enough defensively to play first base? Or Conforto supposedly couldn’t handle the outfield? Well, now it’s Rosario’s chance to outplay his critics, and he’s doing that with his glove, too.
“I think I’ve been improving a lot,” Rosario said. “There’s been a lot that we’ve been doing in the early work as to the angles, how to approach the baseball, or even just with the first step in general, once the ball is hit. I think that’s been a big help to me.”
Offensively, Rosario is now batting .293, and even one of his outs Tuesday was a smoked 104-mph ground ball to second base. His hard-contact rate of 35.2 percent is well above last season (27.7) and hitting coach Chili Davis attributes the bump to “trusting his hands,” the lightning-quick reflexes Rosario has always been known for.
“It’s really just a byproduct of hard work and optimism,” Callaway said. “He knows he’s got the talent and he’s going to go out there and show everybody.”
Consider us convinced.