In April of last season, when the Mets were in Cleveland, playing the eventual AL Champion Indians, Michael Conforto assumed the No. 3 slot in the batting order.
It made sense, since everyone compared his swing to Don Mattingly’s. H was going to be an eventual batting champion, Mets Nation thought. And seeing that swing, the club could see the logical transition from Mike Piazza to David Wright to Michael Conforto.
But something happened and Conforto just became a little too pull happy and forgive the Yankee reference Met fans, but outfielder went from Mattingly to Kevin Maas.
“That’s definitely part of it,” Conforto said. “It’s a combination of a few things, like doing a little too much up there. I can tell you where I am as a hitter is to use all fields. What we are doing now is to put it in my routine and where I need to and that’s hitting the ball to all fields and where it’s pitched. That’s where I play the best.”
This season, though Conforto has gone back to his Mattingly-like ways by using all the field, going with the pitch and taking what is given to him. He’s hitting .319 with 11 homers and 27 RBI – all best on the team and even though it’s too early to definitely say, if he continues to produce like this, Conforto will represent the Mets in Miami for the All-Star Game in July.
More importantly, Conforto has picked up the slack for Yoenis Cespedes. Even though the Mets lost seven straight, going into tonight’s 3-0 win over the Angels. It wasn’t the offense’s fault. The lineup hit nicely in both Milwaukee and Arizona, whereas the pitching failed the Mets in recent weeks.
Most of that is thanks to Conforto, who became the lead-off batter last month and is now hitting lefties, as well as righties, as evidenced by his seventh inning home run tonight off Jose Alverez.
By playing every day, Conforto is seeing lefties more and more and now, he is a complete player.
“I think that’s definitely and always going to help,” Conforto said. “Seeing them on a more consistent basis is always going to help. I always felt comfortable against them, but last year it didn’t come. It’s just a matter of getting a pitch I can hit and not missing it.”
He’s not missing much these day as Conforto has matured into the player Met fans hoped his would be when he was drafted in the first round of 2014.
The only question will be who sits down when Cespedes comes back? More than likely good guy, but also showing his age, Curtis Granderson will be the fall guy here, as Jay Bruce, Cespedes and now Conforto are too valuable to sit.
And even if the Mets make it back into the race, they still may trade Bruce and see about taking on a full-time centerfielder to balance out the club.
That’s a good problem to have, especially since Conforto looks like the real deal for the long term. With Conforto leading the way, maybe the Mets will have a chance this season.
Why not? You gotta believe in something.