ATLANTA -- At first, there were only compliments. Triple-A Las Vegas manager Wally Backman called Brandon Nimmo into his office Friday to tell him how pleased he was with the outfielder's development, how he felt the former first-round Draft pick's progress would translate well to the big leagues. Then Backman delivered a bit of bad news: the 51s' charter from Reno, Nev., to Las Vegas was full, so Nimmo would need to take a separate flight by way of Salt Lake City.
Nimmo accepted the news with his usual good nature and began walking out, before Backman stopped him.
"By the way," Backman replied, "That flight goes to Atlanta."
That was when the hugs and congratulations began for Nimmo, whom the Mets called up from Las Vegas on Saturday for his big league debut. The Mets' fourth-ranked prospect and top pick in the 2011 Draft, Nimmo was batting .328 with a .409 on-base percentage in 63 games for Vegas, with five home runs and 37 RBIs. He replaces struggling outfielder Michael Conforto, whom the Mets optioned to Las Vegas.
"It took a long time for it to set in," said Nimmo, who is slated to make his first big league start Sunday. "I was in shock. I just didn't really know how to feel because it's something that I've been working toward for a long time, and that I've always prayed about and always dreamt about. It's always seemed like something I was reaching for. To finally now be here, it's no longer something that I'm reaching for. It's a childhood dream that has now come to fruition. It's hard to put into words."
It is a promotion that Nimmo very much earned. At the time a contentious Draft pick because of his lack of experience against upper-level high school competition, Nimmo struggled for years in the Minors before breaking out with double-digit home runs in 2014. That put Nimmo on the prospect map, where he continued to progress through this season.
"The one thing Wally told me on the phone was that he's always been the prototypical work-the-count guy," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's gotten a little bit more aggressive early in the count to where he's not behind in the count all the time. That's made a huge difference."
With the Mets, Nimmo figures to play mostly left field, though his primary Minor League position was center. In that sense, he will directly supplant Conforto, who batted .107 over his final 25 games.
"We just felt that look, at some point this is counterproductive, and what we need to do is get him to Las Vegas, get his swing back, and hopefully then get him back here within a relatively short period of time," general manager Sandy Alderson said of Conforto. "Frankly, we felt we put it off probably a little too long, and maybe even to Michael's detriment."
Told of his demotion on Saturday, Conforto requested to stay in Atlanta and speak to the media before departing for Triple-A, a level he skipped over en route to the Majors last summer. Collins noted that Conforto's desire to do so "tells you what kind of professional he is … a lot of guys would have high-tailed it out of here."
"I've just got to stay positive, work hard and I know I'll be back," Conforto said. "That's the one thing I do know: I'll be back and I'll be doing what I did in April, what I did last year. I'm very confident in that."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.