Struggling second-year outfielder to get regular reps in Las Vegas
By Troy Provost-Heron
NEW YORK -- Over the first four months of his career, Michael Conforto flashed the talent that allowed him to make the jump from Double-A Binghamton to the big leagues late last season. In the four months since, though, both Conforto and the Mets have been left searching for answers.
The Mets are hoping that the outfielder can find those answers at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he was optioned on Friday for the second time this season. In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Seth Lugo was recalled.
"I think he's pressing and starting to expand the zone too much," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He needs to go play and he needs to go get in the lineup every day. That's one of the things I told him, down the road I want him to be an everyday player and not once every three days. With the addition of Jay Bruce, it's tough to get all those guys out there, and I want him playing, so let him go get some hitting in Triple-A."
After batting .270/.335/.506 as a rookie over the final three months of last season, Conforto kicked off his sophomore campaign by hitting .365/.442/.676 in April, but the scuffling began shortly after. From May 1 to June 24, the 23-year-old slashed .148/.217/.303 before being sent down to Triple-A to try and find his swing.
Conforto batted .344 in 16 games with Las Vegas before being recalled on July 18, but his struggles at the Major League level have persisted. Since returning, he has hit just .200 with four extra-base hits.
"It's very discouraging because he was such a huge piece of what we did last year -- this guy was a dynamic bat in the lineup," Collins said. "I think it's all part of the growing process. You have to make adjustments at this level because the game gets faster, the opposition gets better reports and they start to make better pitches.
"It's easy to say, 'Hey, relax a little bit,' but he has to go find his swing and get some confidence."
In an effort to get more playing time upon his eventual return, Conforto will play some center field in Triple-A, a position that the Mets are currently piecing together with Curtis Granderson and Alejandro De Aza after injuries to Yoenis Cespedes (strained right quad) and Juan Lagares (surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his right thumb).
Lugo was recalled to provide depth to the Mets' bullpen because left-hander Jonathon Niese is dealing with some knee discomfort. In six relief appearances this season, Lugo has posted a 3.18 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP while striking out 10 batters over 11 1/3 innings.
Troy Provost-Heron is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.