Conforto making case to stick with Mets for the whole season
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) New York Mets manager Terry Collins has to figure out this spring which Michael Conforto he has - the outfielder who was a rookie sensation in 2015 or the one who was demoted in the middle of a terrible slump last year.
Conforto's five-hit weekend was a nice start.
Conforto homered for the second time in exhibition play and also singled Sunday in a 5-2 win over Detroit, making him 5 for 7 so far.
Collins believes he knows the answer to his Conforto conundrum, saying he has faith in the 2014 first-round selection.
''He's too good a player and has too high a ceiling to continue to struggle. I just think he's going to bounce back and have the kind of year we expect him to have,'' Collins stated.
Conforto started making his case to make the team against the Boston Red Sox on Friday in Fort Myers in the spring opener. He singled to left against left-hander Henry Owens in his first at-bat then homered to right off righty Kyle Kendrick.
He continued his quick start on Saturday with an RBI single in his lone plate appearance, and homered off Detroit's Daniel Stumpf on Sunday.
This spring is a pivotal one for a player who was an instant hit and fan favorite in the summer of 2015 in the Mets' march to the World Series.
The Mets promoted Conforto after 2 + months in the minors in 2015, and the Oregon State standout hit .270 with 12 homers and 26 RBIs. He was even better in the World Series against Kansas City, batting .333 and hitting a pair of homers.
''It's a good start. It's definitely how you want to start things off here. There's a lot of work still to be done, and I'm excited about more opportunities to solidify some things,'' said Conforto, who has dropped nearly 10 pounds and reluctantly gave up pizza and pasta.
Despite Conforto's strong April last season and a promotion to batting third, 2016 was a major disappointment for him.
The down year was a shocker because he had never experienced anything short of success during his baseball career, including a sterling stint with the Beavers in the Pac-12.
''I hadn't ever had a year like that,'' said Conforto, who turns 24 on March 1. ''There's a huge purpose for (these games). They're definitely very important for me. However, I wouldn't say it's terribly different from every other year.''
Collins said he felt the early power numbers last season hurt Conforto because he started his swing early, began pulling the ball more and fell victim to being out in front of breaking pitches.
''He got off to such a great hot start with the home run, crushing the ball and everybody's chanting `MVP' in the month of April. I just think his swing got long,'' Collins said.
Conforto played center field last year for the first time ever and likes the position, saying, ''I'm open to that.'' That increases his value because he could be a valuable sub for Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson up the middle in a crowded outfield that includes fellow lefty batters Jay Bruce and Brandon Nimmo.
''I just need to go out there and become a better player every day,'' Conforto said. ''I don't feel any extra pressure. I'm going to go there and play and let my play take care of everything.''
NOTES: 1B Lucas Duda (back, hip) remained out of action for the third day after taking cortisone injections two days ago. Bruce took grounders at first base in practice. . INF Matt Reynolds joined Conforto as the only Mets with two hits on Sunday. . Mets RHP Chris Flexen (sore knee) was scratched from his start against Detroit.