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How Mets' Francisco Lindor Plans To Take A New Approach This Season

How Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor plans to take a new approach this season.
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PORT ST. LUCIE -When Francisco Lindor took the field for the first time as a Met last season, his life was moving at warp speed both on and off the field. 

As a result, the shortstop who was traded from the Cleveland Guardians to New York earlier that offseason, before signing a massive 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets on the eve of the 2021 regular season, did not put together the campaign he had hoped for last year.  

"Life was a little faster for me last year," Lindor said on Tuesday at Clover Park. "I tried to give it my best, I just wasn't as productive as I wanted to be, and then the injury came."

Lindor got off to a slow start in his first season with the Mets, slashing .194/.294/.294 through the end of May. The 28-year-old managed to pick things up a bit afterwards, raising his average up to .226 by mid-July, however, an oblique strain, which he suffered in the first game after the All-Star break, knocked him out for the next five weeks. 

Upon returning from the injured list on August 24th, Lindor began to resemble the superstar the Mets traded for once the calendar flipped forward to September. In the final full-month of the season, Lindor slashed .267/.359/.574 with nine home runs and 25 RBI across 101 at-bats. He also had his first signature moment as a Met during this span, slugging three homers to help his team take the rubber match of the Subway Series from the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. Lindor's productive September helped him finish the year with 20 homers, becoming the first Mets' shortstop to eclipse this feat since Asdrubal Cabrera in 2016. 

After June 1, Lindor slashed .253/.342/.480 with 16 homers, 51 RBI, and 50 runs scored across his final 78 games.

In order to build off this impressive finish, and avoid another slow start/down campaign this season, Lindor has taken on a new mental approach as he enters year-two with the Mets. 

"So I know this year, after all I did in the offseason with my workouts, I just made sure I had time to separate between my workouts, and being with my wife, baby, and recover," Lindor said. "And I think that's something that I've done really well in the past couple of years.

"But last year, everything kind've blended together. So this offseason was all about preparing myself by being a husband, father, baseball player and a regular person at the same time."

Although Lindor didn't have the success he was looking for on the field last season, he believes he accomplished a lot by learning from his struggles.

"It wasn't what I wanted. It was a lot of things happening, and I was trying to get my routine," Lindor said. "But ultimately it comes down to me not being consistent. And I think that's something I have to do this year -- be more consistent from the beginning. Life was a little fast for me. It's part of the game. Live and learn."

Lindor's career numbers have been on a steady decline since finishing in the top six in the American League MVP race in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018 while with Cleveland. But when asked if he feels he has been trending down these past few years, Lindor didn't hesitate to shoot down this suggestion.

"I can play. I can play. I don't think I have hit my peak yet," Lindor said. "I don't know. I haven't even thought about every year being 'trending down.' I can play. 2018 was a fun year, '19 was fun. I think I would've had a better year if I didn't injure my calf.... In 2020, pandemic year, completely different. I can play. I can play."

Defensive Plan

According to manager Buck Showalter, Jeff McNeil will be the Mets' primary second baseman, while also seeing some time in the outfield this season. 

This means McNeil and Lindor will be double-play partners once more this year. But for those who have forgotten, McNeil and Lindor had an early-season feud last year, which resulted in the infamous rat-raccoon incident. However, on Tuesday, they both insisted that they've been able to mend their relationship and put it behind them.

Showalter is confident that Dom Smith can "flat out hit," and that last season's struggles were not a reflection of the player that he is. The skipper went onto confirm that Smith will play first base, outfield and be in the mix at DH in 2022. 

As for J.D. Davis, the majority of his playing time will come at third base, and he will likely get some work in at first base and in the outfield. Davis could also see time at DH as well, per Showalter. 

In addition to handling DH duties, Robinson Cano will play second base, and maybe some first base as well. Showalter says the Mets are hoping that Cano is not just a pure DH in 2022.

In the outfield, the Mets have three players with experience playing center field in Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha. Realistically, the job will come down to either Marte or Nimmo, but Showalter said they won't commit to anything until after talking to the players. 

Banged Up Starters

The Mets have two starters in the backend of their rotation, Carlos Carrasco (bone spur removed from right elbow) and Taijuan Walker (right knee procedure), who are both trying to make their way back from offseason surgery in order to be ready for Opening Day.

Following his procedure in October, Carrasco says he resumed throwing in mid-December. The right-hander also told a group of reporters today that his velocity is currently hovering around 92 mph, around 3-4 miles faster than his mark at this time in camp last year. 

While Carrasco has faced live hitters and appears to be on track to build up his arm in time for the season, Walker is about a week or two behind. 

Walker threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday morning, but was unsure of whether his next step will be to toss live BP or throw another BP session first. The right-hander is not yet running at full-speed and must still be cleared for in-game activity before he is deemed ready for the regular season. 

Walker revealed that his knee injury was a freak thing, which he suffered during a routine lower body workout in the offseason. He underwent surgery in mid-January immediately after tests showed that a piece of cartilage broke off his knee cap.

When asked about the timeline of Walker and Carrasco, Showalter went through a few different scenarios for these hurlers. And although Carrasco appears to be further along than Walker, Showalter roped this duo together. 

"It's like Carlos (Carrasco). He and Tai (Walker), we'll see where we get with those guys," Showalter said. "We're approaching it like they're close. It may be as simple as the length of their outings aren't there early-on. The question is 'do we want to have them continue to pitch somewhere else to stretch them out, or start them for a three inning stint?"'"

Showalter was also asked if he would rule them as questionable for the start of the season, and he provided a bit of an optimistic outlook.

"I'm hopeful, but I'm not going to put a question by it yet."