He is not playing horseshoes or hand grenades, so being close — really close — doesn’t mean much for the Mets’ Michael Conforto and his continuing 2018 offensive struggles.
But maybe he is close to discovering the path that will return him to the results of his 2017 All-Star season.
“We’re getting closer and closer to it and I really think he’s going to get back pretty soon,” hitting coach Pat Roessler said Tuesday before the Mets fell to the Phillies, 7-3, at Citi Field. “He feels pretty good, just a little bit off here and there. I really believe he’s pretty close.”
After playing both games of Monday’s doubleheader, Conforto got a night out of the starting lineup, a move that was determined several days ago, manager Mickey Callaway said.
So Conforto spent a long time pregame watching, analyzing film. He studied the good times, which have been pretty sparse lately: His average dropped to .217 after a 5-of-39 (.128) famine over 12 games, including a pinch-hit RBI ground out Tuesday.
“You always look at when you’re going well. There’s little things in there: where the hands were, where the foot was coming down, what sequence everything was. Little things here and there,” Conforto said. “I take a look at it every once in a while. Just use it in my work.”
Conforto has been working overtime to regain his 2017 pre-injury form. He ended the season hitting .279 with 27 homers in 109 games. But his All-Star campaign ended abruptly in late August, when he suffered a dislocation and a torn posterior capsule in his left shoulder, forcing September surgery. He insists fighting back from the surgery has not waylaid his 2018.
“Other than the fact I didn’t have as much time to prepare. I wasn’t able to work out the way I wanted to in the offseason. The preparation was different. I’m just playing a little bit of catch-up,” Conforto said. “I haven’t changed anything in my swing so it’s just a matter of getting reps.”
While getting his timing back on track to rectify the slight misalignment in his swing.
“The hitting coaches still feel like he’s really close,” Callaway said, noting after a near breakout, Conforto “kind of went through another down cycle recently.
“It’s all a timing thing,” Callaway continued. “If he can get that bat in a position that’s two inches out in front of where he’s got it right now, he’s going to be OK. You see him talking good swings at the ball and he’s fouling them straight back. He’s just nicking them. It’s because he’s just a tad late.”
And because Conforto is so close, extended time off won’t help, Callaway said.
“If we just sat him for three days, that’s not going to help a timing issue. We have to get him out there consistently,” Callaway said. “He’ll get back in there [Wednesday] and we’ll see if he can get that timing figured out because we need Michael Conforto to hit well to succeed.”
Certainly can’t hurt. “Mets” and “successful offense” have collided as much this season as “butterscotch” and “diesel fuel.” But Conforto feels he is close to turning a corner. And he isn’t the only one.
“He’s in a good spot mentally. He’s frustrated he’s not doing what he thinks he can do and what he did last year,” Roessler said. “But he’s been doing some growing pains coming off the surgery and tweaking some things here and there.”
And working of course, searching for that elusive spot to keep the hands, the spot to land the foot, the microseconds on the swing.
“I’m doing just fine. I’m working hard, trying to get back where I was last year,” Conforto said. “It hasn’t been the season I’ve wanted it to be up to this point but there’s nothing to do but just keep working.” Conforto said, insisting he “absolutely” feels on the brink. “I easily could have had a couple hits yesterday. Sometimes you’re just a hair off and the results aren’t there. but I feel good. My swings feel good. I feel like I’m having better timing. It’s just a matter of time.”