Saturday, December 9 2023

PHILADELPHIA — Over the last few weeks, the Mets have put a heavy emphasis on finishing strong so their emerging rookies can build some confidence heading into the winter. But it’s less about stats and numbers and more about feeling good about the adjustments made and more about having a solid foundation to work on in the winter.

The Mets want infielders Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, catcher Francisco Alvarez and reliever Grant Hartwig to go into the offseason with the idea that they can compete at the big league level and that they do belong here.

“What gets players is always the unknown,” manager Buck Showalter said Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. “We try to be open with them about the unknown. Now, these guys have got an idea of what’s ahead of them as they go through the offseason. There are some things you only can experience up here, like the first time you travel with a Major League team, the first time you take Major League batting practice, the first time you play in front of a third deck. Your depth perceptions are totally different and people don’t realize that.”

For Baty, a 23-year-old third baseman, his rookie campaign has been anything but smooth sailing. He was brought up to the big leagues in April amid much fanfare and lived up to the hype in the early days. But like all rookies, he scuffled at times and he slumped big time late in the summer. So much so, that the Mets demoted him to Triple-A for a few weeks.

But since he was called up on Sept. 1, he’s been solid on both sides of the ball. Friday night in Philadelphia, his ninth-inning theatrics tied the game and forced extra innings. The Mets have long been impressed by Baty’s ability to pick up on how pitchers have attacked him. His ability to pick up on the ride of Craig Kimbrel’s fastball on Thursday night and then hit that same fastball out of the park on Friday was impressive. He followed it up Saturday with a 2-for-4 performance.

For the Mets’ first-round pick in 2019, the power numbers are good, but knowing he can navigate the highs and lows of the season is even better.

“This game is so built on failure that you can’t will yourself to do anything,” Baty said. “You come to the field and be the same guy, be consistent and work really hard. Whatever the game gives you, the game gives you. That’s what I’ve been focusing on the last couple of weeks and it’s been good.”

Hartwig came up to the Major Leagues with the intention of showing that he can get left-handed hitters out. A right-hander who works primarily off his sinker, Hartwig succeeded in that, holding lefties to a .154 average. But he might have put too much emphasis on lefties: Righties are hitting .306 with two home runs off him.

“The biggest thing [for] me this season was having a lot of success against left-handed hitters,” Hartwig told the Daily News before the Mets played the Philadelphia Phillies in the third game of the series. “That was a big question mark when I got called up… But with the success against lefties, I need to have a little more success against righties. They’re having too much success off me and I think that’s in part to getting behind on righties and not executing.

“I think I’ve allowed too many comfortable at-bats, getting behind in counts for hitters when the way that I throw, the way that I slow, and the way my stuff moves, there should be uncomfortable at-bats for righties.”

This is where getting hit and learning to struggle has been important for an emerging young bullpen piece.

“A dose of reality is good too,” Showalter said.

Hartwig, who was planning on going to medical school before the Mets called him after college, attacks hitters with the precision of a doctor. He’s a cerebral pitcher who understands the nuance of a fickle sport. But even he isn’t immune to cliches.

Taking it one game at a time and trying to string together a few games at a time is what the Baby Mets are after and they hope they’ll be better for it this winter.

“I think it sounds cliche but it’s 100% true,” Hartwig said. “And it’s not just for young guys — everyone is trying to finish the season strong on a high note to create some momentum going into the offseason, and maybe for next year.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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