Just when the Mets were starting to get healthy, a new malady rears its ugly head. Leadoff hitter Michael Conforto was scratched with a sore back. He was initially in the lineup, but the Mets wanted to be safe with the young outfielder.
“I really think it was the heat in Atlanta,” manager Terry Collins said of Conforto before the Mets opened a three-game series at Citi Field with the Cubs on Monday. “He played [both ends of] the doubleheader [Saturday], which is tough for anybody. Then came the plane ride [home], which didn’t help. When he cooled down he was a little stiff.”
At the moment, Collins said there isn’t a concern Conforto’s back problem will linger. He doesn’t expect it to last for more than a day or two, and the manager was hopeful Conforto would be available as a pinch-hitter.
When Conforto is ready to start, Collins said there is no set plan of how he will juggle the pieces in the crowded outfield with Yoenis Cespedes back. Cespedes was slated to start the first two games of the series, be given Wednesday off, and play the next three days against the Nationals.
Conforto has slumped of late, with just three hits in 19 at-bats on the recent road trip, though he did draw seven walks and score six runs. Jay Bruce has gotten hot of recently, producing four home runs and eight RBIs in his last seven games. and Curtis Granderson has hit safely in eight of his last 11 games.
“[Monday night] is the perfect example of why we’re lucky to have four guys,” Collins said. “Having a quality option on our bench is very, very valuable, and it will hopefully keep these guys strong. Until we know Ces is going to be that everyday guy, I don’t think we have any plans etched in stone yet.”
Collins also would like to start Juan Lagares, his one true center fielder, against left-handed pitchers. Lagares has been hot, going 8-for-18 on the six-game road trip with four RBIs and three runs scored.