PORT ST. LUCIE — Brodie Van Wagenen now knows what it is like to be Mets general manager. All the other stuff was just a warm-up.
On the fourth day of spring training games, the Mets already have lost two veteran third basemen to injuries. Jed Lowrie is out with a left knee capsule sprain. Now, Todd Frazier is down with a sore left oblique.
Neither has played in a game, and despite the happy talk of a fast return for both, remember, these are the Mets — injuries take longer than expected. Accept that as a reality.
With all that in mind, the Mets need to return Jeff McNeil to the infield. Put him at third base and get him ready for the regular season after he put up a slash line of .329/.381/.471 last season over 248 plate appearances. Don’t continue with McNeil in the outfield for now.
If Lowrie and Frazier return quickly, there is plenty of time to put McNeil in the outfield, but the Mets must make sure they are covered at third base with a decent bat. The Mets are so offensively challenged and need every good bat they can get in the lineup.
Get McNeil the reps he needs at third so it does not become a panic situation later.
Over at first base, the Mets need Pete Alonso to get the nod, with Frazier — also a first-base option — sidelined.
“The Mets are short on offense, they need Alonso and McNeil in the lineup,’’ one scout told The Post on Tuesday before the Mets were crushed, 14-4, by the Tigers at First Data Field. The Mets committed four errors.
Bryce Harper would have been the ultimate offensive solution, but the Mets have opted not to even consider Harper.
This offseason has been a financial windfall for third basemen, with the Padres signing Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract and on Tuesday the Rockies coming to terms on a new eight-year deal for their star third baseman, Nolan Arenado.
The Mets don’t allow themselves to play in that financial ballpark.
A frustrated Frazier headed back to New York for the day to get a cortisone shot and meet with Mets doctors. I asked McNeil if there were any plans to put him back in the infield. He said he had not heard anything, but returning to the infield would be like riding a bike.
Frazier said he was hopeful the injury would not linger. He thought he would wake up Tuesday and it would not be an issue.
“I was hoping it would go away,’’ he told me at his locker at First Data Field.
“Maybe at 23, not 33,’’ said a realistic Frazier, who played just 115 games last season.
Frazier had averaged 154 games per season the previous five seasons before he became a Met.
Aware of all that, the Mets and Van Wagenen went out and signed Lowrie, who averaged 155 games the past two years, and he immediately came up with the knee issue.
When Van Wagenen was asked if McNeil would be shifted to third to get more work there, he said, “Early on in camp we’ll probably still have him focus most of his reps in the outfield, just because it is a new position for him. We know he can move back to the infield, and there is plenty of time if we need to have him get more reps at third. I think we will have [Adeiny] Hechavarria get more reps at third base as we look to increase options there.’’
Regarding Frazier’s injury, Van Wagenen said the MRI exam “wasn’t overly alarming, but clearly we are going to shut him down and start building him up from there.’’
Depth is what it is all about.
“Every good team has depth,’’ Van Wagenen said. “As we’ve seen here so far in camp, there are going to be guys on different timeline schedules and you are going to have to have people that can step up and play not at only a high level but play also be able to play multiple positions and fortunately we have that.’’
That depth is already being tested.
Get McNeil to third base. Don’t wait.
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