SAN DIEGO — To say that Francisco Alvarez has earned more playing time would be an understatement. The Mets’ rookie backstop long ago earned the trust of the pitching staff and he’s had one of the most valuable bats throughout the team’s winning week, coming into Sunday having hit .423 with a 1.464 OPS over his last seven games.
He’s faced a heavy workload this recently, having started 21 of the Mets’ last 24 games since June 9. The Mets had previously planned to split time somewhat evenly between Omar Narvaez and Alvarez, but Alvarez has been too good to sit. However, the team is still cautious when it comes to overloading a 21-year-old that plays a taxing position.
But with the All-Star break coming Monday, the Mets decided to give Alvarez one more start Sunday against the San Diego Padres.
“We obviously wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t have four days off,” manager Buck Showalter said Sunday before the Mets played their final game of the first half at Petco Park. “He’s handled it well.”
Finding spots for Narvaez has been tough, though he has been understanding about the situation, knowing that Alvarez’s bat in the lineup is what’s best for the team.
“I’ve talked to Omar a lot and he’s been good,” Showalter said. “He knows that Alvy has performed at a high level, but he’s got a lot of personal and professional pride too. This guy is a good player and there will come a time here when we’ll be glad we’ve got him.”
This was not how the Mets drew it up. Narvaez was in line to get the bulk of the time behind the plate when the season started with Tomas Nido taking the rest. But Narvaez’s calf injury forced the Mets to call up Alvarez and once he returned, they designated Nido for assignment. The homegrown backstop is still with the organization, but only hitting .195 in Triple-A, so the Mets’ big-league catching situation isn’t going to change anytime soon.
There were times when Alvarez looked overmatched in the Major Leagues but proved to be a quick study. Baserunners have been a challenge for him (he’s thrown out eight of 50 runners), but the Mets have not seen it affect his confidence. Showalter has often pointed to new rules that favor runners and base stealers and acknowledged that it’s a difficult time to be a young catcher, but the Mets are continually working with him to keep his confidence up.
“One of the challenges with catchers today that throw well is to not lose their confidence with the stolen bases,” Showalter said. “I’ve seen catchers now rushing on every throw. They do things mechanically that they would never do because they’re so far behind when they get the baseball. There’s a feel you have with the runner when he breaks for first base. You know when you have to hurry and know when you don’t.”
The Mets could DH Alvarez more often in the second half to give Narvaez more playing time and get Alvarez increased time with catching coach Glenn Sherlock in the bullpen. The team considered doing that today but instead decided to use reserve outfielder DJ Stewart as the DH instead to get him into a game before the break.
Outfielder Tommy Pham left after the first inning of the Mets’ 6-2 loss to the Padres on Sunday with a tight right groin. He’ll undergo imaging in New York on Monday to determine the extent of the injury, but he believes it’s similar to what he dealt with in 2018 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I get asked every day how my hydration is to kind of prevent soft tissue injuries and I was probably the most hydrated I’ve been all season today,” Pham said. “So hydration doesn’t really work for me.”
Pham avoided an injured list stint with the injury but he was in and out of the lineup for a little more than two weeks. The Mets are hoping the All-Star break will help him avoid the injured list again, especially since he’s been one of the team’s better performers over the last month.
Pham recently had a six-game hitting streak and logged three multi-hit games over that span. Until Sunday, he had been hitting .333 since May 28 with a .992 OPS in that span. The 35-year-old Las Vegas native struggled during the road trip going just 3-for-22 with three walks and four strikeouts, though he did have a few good defensive plays.
“It’s been a tough road trip for me. Not a lot of luck, no barrels — that’s not a good combination. A lot of line-outs. I would like the barrels to come back because that’s a good feeling.”
Left-hander Jose Quintana is set to throw a simulated game Thursday, but he hasn’t returned to Queens just yet. He made his final rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday in Worcester, Mass., with what the Mets think is the flu. The team is having him stay in Worcester for a day or two to recover.
The Mets will start Justin Verlander against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game after the break and Max Scherzer will pitch the final game of the series. The middle game is still in question with Kodai Senga going to the MLB All-Star Game, but if he doesn’t pitch in the game then he could still be an option. Otherwise, the Mets are considering right-hander Carlos Carrasco for that Saturday start.
Source: Berkshire mont