NEW YORK — On Tuesday afternoon, manager Buck Showalter made it clear why the Mets optioned first baseman Dominic Smith to Triple-A and recalled right-hander Adonis Medina from Syracuse: The big league club needed an extra pitcher for the bullpen. It hasn’t helped that the starters haven’t given the Mets length lately.
“Primarily, we need a pitcher,” Showalter said. “We are not going to put our bullpen in harm’s way. We have had some shorts [outings from our starters]. … We are going to try to keep everybody healthy [in the bullpen]. Dom was the option we ended up with. … We have bullpen pieces that we really need to be careful with.”
Medina was recalled for the sixth time this season. He has a 5.87 ERA in 7 2/3 innings of relief in the majors, but a 2.00 ERA in nine innings at Triple-A.
Smith got off to a slow start this year, batting 16-for-86 (.186) with 14 RBIs in 39 games with New York. In 19 games since Smith’s four-hit night against the Phillies on May 1 — which secured his spot ahead of the May 2 roster deadline — he batted just .130/.226/.217 with seven RBIs and five walks.
The Mets are hoping he can get back to being the Dominic Smith of 2020, when he was one of baseball’s best hitters with a .316 average and ranked third on the Mets with 2.0 WAR.
“In the situation that we are in, we have a really good first baseman in Pete Alonso,” Showalter said. “[Smith] is probably feeling like every at-bat, he has to hit four home runs in one at-bat.
“[We want him to] settle in a comfort zone, just remind yourself how good [he is]. He is a confident guy. I see the work he keeps doing, trying to be perfect in every at-bat. It’s hard to do in this game. The pitchers are really good. Just try to settle into some consistent at-bats and know that he is going to be out there every day. Just get into a groove where he can be who he is capable of being.”
How did Smith take the news? Maybe general manager Billy Eppler said it best.
“I think like any of us would take it if we got news from our employer. It was hard, but I made sure to articulate how good of a baseball player I thought he was and still do,” Eppler said. “It’s a point of adversity. But he’s got our support, and any resource that he can help with, anything he needs from us, he’s got it.”
With Smith in the Minor Leagues, Mark Canha most likely serves as the backup first baseman. He has played 118 big league games at the position during his career. The Mets also have other players on the roster who can see time at first. Eduardo Escobar has played 18 games there, while Patrick Mazeika has played 98 games at first base in the Minors.