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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Time is right for Mets to promote Amed Rosario

Mets shortstop prospect Amed Rosario on Feb. 20,

Mets shortstop prospect Amed Rosario on Feb. 20, 2017, at a spring training workout in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Mets’ weakest spot on the field is at shortstop, where they have only two legitimate candidates for that position. One, Asdrubal Cabrera, is on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The other, Jose Reyes, who is batting .184 after Thursday night’s 8-3 loss to the Nationals.

How lucky then that the Mets’ best prospect happens to play shortstop, at Triple-A Las Vegas, one step from Citi Field.

So where the heck is Amed Rosario? Not in Flushing, where he should be, and the Mets’ excuses for that are wearing thin.

We had been patient. Despite Cabrera looking like a defensive liability, and Reyes being clueless at the plate, we could understand why the Mets previously chose to be conservative with Rosario. But in the span of three days, they’ve lost their starting double-play combo, not to mention a pair of switch hitters, and the resurgent Neil Walker was batting .319 with seven home runs, 23 RBIs and a .973 OPS in his 37 games since May 1.

Surely that meant Rosario Time, right?

Instead, what we got Thursday was Gavin Cecchini — a former shortstop, now second baseman hitting .249 at Vegas — and more reasons from Sandy Alderson to delay the inevitable. After hearing Alderson’s explanation about the Mets already having “good players” on the roster and his resistance to calling up Rosario for a short stay, we finally cut to the chase.

Wouldn’t the Mets be a better team with Rosario as their shortstop?

The general manager didn’t bite. After hedging some, and admitting that the team’s play at the position has been “inconsistent,” Alderson summed things up thusly.

“Right now,” he said, “we’re comfortable where we are.”

Not better, mind you. Comfortable, as in the Mets don’t have to sweat a number of issues that could arise from Rosario’s promotion, such as figuring out what to do with Cabrera and Reyes. Or potentially denting Rosario’s confidence if the 21-year-old flunks his audition and has to be returned to Triple-A.

We’re not saying those aren’t legitimate concerns. But Alderson also has a duty to give the Mets the best chance to win, and we no longer can be convinced that Rosario isn’t a part of that equation. Rosario was batting .333 with seven home runs, 45 RBIs and an .870 OPS through 64 games at Las Vegas.

The Pacific Coast League may be notoriously hitter-friendly, but the player the Mets called up Thursday — presumably to help them win — had a .662 OPS in 62 games there. We don’t mean to pick on Cecchini. But if the idea is to beat the Nationals in this four-game series, how could the Mets not be better equipped for that with Rosario on the roster?

We also don’t buy the front-office bogeyman stories about possibly wrecking Rosario’s psyche by giving him too much, too soon as a perceived savior. The Mets used those same arguments with Michael Conforto back in 2015, until Alderson finally relented and promoted him directly from Double-A Binghamton. All Conforto did was hit .270 with nine home runs in 56 games for a Mets team that won the NL East, then belted three more homers in the playoffs, including two in the World Series.

Conforto did regress the following season, yo-yo’ing between Vegas and the Mets, but that happens with even the most talented young players. Look at him now, and he’s still only 24. You’d think the Mets would be more receptive. But Alderson remains fixated on making sure that Rosario, once promoted, stays in the majors for the long haul.

“We want to make sure when Rosario, or any of our top prospects come up, we don’t want them to go back,” Alderson said.

That’s a worthwhile goal. But there are no guarantees. Every move comes with a certain degree of risk. The Dodgers struck gold in promoting 21-year-old Cody Bellinger, who has 17 home runs in the 46 games since his April 25 call-up. No one expects Rosario to be Bellinger.

All he has to do is be an upgrade over Cabrera and Reyes. If the Mets don’t believe Rosario is capable of doing that, they need a new No. 1 prospect.

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