With news surrounding Lagares’ lat injury, an opportunity may now present itself for Michael Conforto to break camp with the Mets for Opening Day.
On Saturday it was reported that Lagares strained his left oblique muscle while running the bases during a Spring Training game against the Atlanta Braves.
With Opening Day just eight days away, it’s still unclear the severity of Lagares’ injury. With a roster spot currently available, Conforto may very well have an opportunity to start the season with the Amazins.
Earlier in the offseason, it had been hinted Conforto was going to begin the 2017 season in the minors. After all, the Mets found themselves with a crowded outfield once they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes — thankfully — to a four-year contract. Attempts were made to trade Jay Bruce, but the organization was unsuccessful in finding a deal that they liked for the slugger. And lastly, Curtis Granderson is entering the final year of his contract.
Lagares’ injury could potentially give Conforto an opportunity to serve as the backup centerfielder. While Conforto doesn’t have a ton of major league experience manning center field, manager Terry Collins seems confident in Conforto to fill the void.
"“I’ve seen enough to be comfortable,” Collins said. “I just think he needs to be out there to play for himself so that he feels comfortable.”"
Lagares is the Mets best defensive outfielder, but he had been stung by a list of injuries over the last couple of seasons. And it is because of this the Mets may take the conservative route and give the former Gold Glover an opportunity to heal his lat muscle entirely.
While serving as a backup may not be ideal for Conforto, if it were up to him he would not take the opportunity to play every day in the minors over playing at the major-league level.
"“I feel like going back [to the minors], it could have some benefits. Playing every day is big,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think I need to figure it out in the big leagues and play against that level of pitching and those guys who can adjust and change at-bat to at-bat. I think that’s where I need to be in order to grow as much as I can as a player.”"
Conforto’s numbers this spring would have made it very hard for the Mets to justify sending him down to the minors to start the season. Entering Sunday afternoon, Conforto has owned a .346 batting average this Spring.
While Lagares’ injury is unfortunate, hopefully, he isn’t going to miss significant time. Personally, I’m confident Conforto will not only hold down the position for the time being but also show the organization he’s ready to have a strong 2017 campaign.