The Mets’ lineup returned to a more imposing form on Tuesday night ahead of another series with the San Francisco Giants when the team activated Francisco Lindor off the injured list after missing more than a month because of an oblique injury.
Tuesday’s return home from a difficult west-coast road trip against the very same Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers provided Lindor’s return to the fold for the first time since July 16.
“It’s huge that we’re having him back and having his presence on the field,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s something that we missed for over a month now. His energy, his bat, his defense, everything that he brings to help the team win games, it’s been hard to be out there without his presence. A lot of guys are better because of his presence.”
While there was plenty more hurdles to contend with — including the potential loss of ace Jacob deGrom for the rest of the season — the Mets certainly struggled without Lindor within their ranks, going 14-22 in the 36 games that he missed.
Naturally, questions will arise about how much of an impact a player can have when he’s trudging through an offensive season that is on pace to be his worst as a pro, but Lindor not only provides a spark in the dugout with his demeanor and his defense in the field, he was slashing .353/.488/.529 (1.018 OPS) in his previous 11 games before his injury.
“He’s a guy that you can count on with his bat. He’s going to hit,” Rojas said. “He’s going to do something in the game to help others… even if he doesn’t get a good outcome in his at-bats. That’s a guy who’s going to be a presence… the opposing team has to prepare for a guy like Lindor.”
The 27-year-old will also finally get the chance to play with his good friend and Mets trade deadline acquisition in Javier Baez, who is making the shift from his natural position at shortstop to second base to ensure Lindor stays on the left side of the infield.
Baez was acquired on July 31 while Lindor was on the shelf; only for the former Cub to miss 11 games of his own because of back spasms. He made his return from the IL on Sunday in the Mets’ 7-2 win over the Dodgers.
“They’re very active, they’re very proactive… those IQs are high for the game,” Rojas said of his new dynamic duo up the middle. “Javy is a little bit more reserved than Francisco is, but guys see what he’s doing. Having the two of them out there on the field and in the lineup will be great for us offensively, defensively… we feel pretty good about it.”
The hope is that their additions will spark the Mets back to winning ways as they grasp at the final straws of contention while in third place in the NL East and facing a hearty deficit for a Wild Card spot. But the Mets will be sure not to throw too much on Lindor’s shoulders as he did not go through the usual rehab process of seeing game action in the minors before getting back in the lineup.
“It’ll be a day-to-day approach with him and see how he’ll respond,” Rojas said. “Performance [staff] feels that he responded really well to the activity level that he’ll have in a game.”