Four months without sports sure are making people jumpy.
Mets fans and media members alike are already getting on first-year manager Luis Rojas for batting Robinson Cano third in two exhibition games against the crosstown rival Yankees.
Two games that don’t count, two games that are used just to get players the work they need before MLB’s 60-game truncated regular-season schedule begins on Friday.
Rojas even told members of the media prior to Saturday night’s 6-0 loss to the Yankees that Cano was batting third “to get as many at-bats as he can,” after he reported to summer camp late.
If that truly is the reason, then it’s an understandable one.
Despite coming off a career-worst season in his first campaign with the Mets, Cano’s bat will be an x-factor for the club this season as long as it is in the right spot in the order.
During an injury-riddled season in which he played in just 107 games, Cano started a majority of them (58 games) in the three-hole of the Mets’ lineup. The results were disastrous as the 37-year-old slashed .229/.273/.359 with five home runs and 19 RBI.
Hence why there’s been panic that Cano spent time at the three-spot this weekend.
“His profile is to hit there in the middle. He showed up in great shape and with his bat, we all feel comfortable he will deliver for us,” Rojas said. “Guys are hitting in different spots in the lineup. We’re just getting guys at-bats. … It’s nothing in particular to do with what we do in the season. We’re not there yet.”
So it might be best to ease away from the panic button for now. Let’s talk about pressing it if he’s there on Opening Day Friday against the Braves.
The ideal spot for Cano — which is why a good season from him will be so important to the success of the Mets — would be down at No. 5 or No. 6 in the order.
For the first time in a while, the Mets boast a deep lineup of offensive threats that make it unreasonable for Cano to be near the No. 3 spot.
Jeff McNeil is the obvious choice to lead things off while Pete Alonso mashed in the second spot. Michael Conforto’s career year last year in which he slashed .257/.363/.494 with 33 home runs should earn him first dibs at the No. 3 spot.
Meanwhile, the returning Yoenis Cespedes, the emerging J.D. Davis, and the more-consistent Wilson Ramos are all viable options to bat ahead of Cano.
Given the desire for many teams to alternate righties and lefties in the lineup, though, logic suggests Cano could easily settle in at fifth or sixth:
Projected optimal 2020 Mets lineup
- Jeff McNeil- 3B
- Pete Alonso- 1B
- Michael Conforto- RF
- Yoenis Cespedes- DH
- Robinson Cano- 2B
- Wilson Ramos- C
- JD Davis- LF
- Amed Rosario- SS
- Brandon Nimmo- CF
If Cano can find his footing in Queens and replicate anything near the half-season he had with the Seattle Mariners in 2018 after returning from his PED suspension (.303, 10 HR, 50 RBI in 80 games), the Mets’ lineup not only is that much more threatening, but Cano could (gasp) moonlight occasionally as the No. 3 hitter if needed.
Should he struggle as he did in 2019, though, and Rojas doesn’t act accordingly, questions about favoritism from general manager Brodie Van Wagenen — who traded away the promising Jerred Kelenic for him and Edwin Diaz — will continue to strengthen.