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Yoenis Cespedes exit opens door for Dominic Smith to break through Mets’ ranks

Dominic Smith (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

The Mets have no time to fully absorb what just happened over the weekend. 

Suddenly, a gaping hole is in the middle of their lineup after Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season while in Atlanta with the team. 

It’s the last thing the team needs as they are mired in a sizable slump in which they can’t find a way to score runs. 

Entering Monday night’s series finale against the Braves, the Mets had scored two or fewer runs in three of their previous four games with a complete inability to come up with a timely hit in an important situation. 

Over the weekend against Atlanta, the Mets were a combined 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position while leaving 51 men on-base in their previous five games.

Now without Cespedes — who struggled mightily in his previous four games before opting out — there’s a sizable void to fill.

Enter Dominic Smith. 

The Mets have been hardpressed to find regular at-bats for the 25-year-old natural first baseman, who won’t be usurping Pete Alonso for the job anytime soon. 

He appeared in only half of the Mets’ first 10 games following a promising 2019 season in which he seemed to run a corner in his professional development, slashing .282/.355/.525 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI in 177 at-bats. 

In 12 at-bats this season prior to Monday night’s game against the Braves, he had an OPS of .875 to go with one home run and five RBI, which is tied for second on the team despite having a fraction of the plate appearances as the regulars. 

Now is his chance to prove that he can be a regular contributor on this team, whether that’s by overtaking Cespedes’ spot at designated hitter, or making the occasional appearance in left field as he did on Sunday.

“It’s the same mindset we’ve taken all along,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “It’s a next-man-up mentality. We can’t change that approach.”

The hope around Queens is that Smith can help spark a Mets offense that has largely sputtered in 2020 — which is a big reason why they started the season 3-7.

“We have to be better. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. There are expectations that we haven’t met yet,” Van Wagenen said. “We don’t have the luxury to figure it out over the first couple months of the year.”

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