Conforto makes sweet diving grab in first CF start
By Patrick Pinak
MIAMI -- Michael Conforto made an immediate impact in his first career start in center field during the Mets' 3-0 win over the Marlins on Sunday at Marlins Park. It was almost as if he'd been playing there for years.
In the first, Conforto tracked down Miami leadoff hitter Miguel Rojas' liner in the right-center-field gap, laying out and robbing him of a hit. It was the first time the 23-year-old had really been tested at his new position.
"Off the bat I felt like I got a good read on it," Conforto said. "I took off on a good angle. It started tailing a little bit towards the end, but I ended up getting there. It was a lot of fun. I was happy to start the game off that way."
According to Statcast™, Conforto's route efficiency was 97.8 percent and he reached a max speed of 18.2 mph. He covered 60.2 feet of ground to make the play and his first step was tracked at 0.2 seconds.
It was just how Conforto drew it up.
"It's a good way to get that first play up there and have that first everything go down," he said. "Just jump right into it. I didn't have time to think, just react. That's what you do out there in center."
The plan was to originally let Conforto take a full week of fly balls in center, avoiding the spacious outfield in Marlins Park in the process. But Conforto played the last three innings in center Saturday and earned a start in the series finale in Miami.
"He's here because he can hit," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "If we don't play him in center field, then he has no place to play. We've gotta get him in the game, and the other thing is we've gotta find out if he can do it."
Conforto added two singles and scored a run before Juan Lagares replaced him in the seventh. Conforto is 5-for-11 since he was recalled Monday from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .344 with four doubles, two triples and three home runs in 16 games.
"I'm trying to use my legs a little bit more and stay through the ball and not let my front shoulder fly off," Conforto said. "It's really the same stuff we were working on up here, but when you go down there, you get a chance to take a breath."
The Mets are ranked 28th in runs and 29th in hitting in the Majors. The goal going forward is to get Conforto comfortable in center to get him as many at-bats as possible.
One option currently ruled out is Yoenis Cespedes playing center. Cespedes' right leg, which has bothered him since before the All-Star break, is still not 100 percent, and Collins said he doesn't want to risk aggravating it.
"There's no other place [for Conforto] right now," Collins said. "You've gotta sit [Curtis Granderson] if you put him in right. Some place along the line somebody who helps you offensively is gonna play."
Patrick Pinak is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.