Francisco Lindor talking baseball makes us crave Opening Day even more

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We are reminded, again, how malleable spring training is. Pete Alonso hit another home run Tuesday afternoon in Port St. Lucie, Fla., his third of the exhibition season. His OPS is 1.492. If you’d like to look it up, you’ll note the all-time single-season leader in that category was Barry Bonds at the peak of his “powers,” 2004. His OPS was 1.422. Alonso probably won’t keep that up.

Jeff McNeil had a hit Tuesday afternoon, which is a good thing, because despite the care-free, surfer-dude look he’s been favoring all spring, he had lately started to look like a man in need of a king-sized dose of Maalox, 1-for-his-first-21. He’s now 2-for-22. He’s hitting .091. McNeil probably won’t stay that low.

Jacob deGrom … well, we are running out of adjectives. His 13-pitch first inning against the Astros on Tuesday consisted of 11 fastballs, all of which hit 99, 100 or 101 mph, and two strike-three sliders, both 94, that nearly sent a pair of hitters into traction. His spring line so far: nine innings, three hits, one run, one walk, 16 strikeouts.

(With deGrom, you never know. That might be for real)

We see in spring what we want to see in spring, and that brings us to Francisco Lindor, the Mets’ signature offseason acquisition, who has spent most of the spring as veterans are allowed to: working on specific aspects of his game, not much caring or paying attention what the scoreboard says he’s doing day to day.

So the .158 average he brought to Clover Park wasn’t exactly keeping Lindor up at night, and it surely wasn’t going to wipe the omnipresent smile off his face.

“I’m very comfortable,” Lindor said, smiling. “It’s spring training. Our engines are just starting to run.”

He was more so by day’s end, because even if you’re playing games that don’t count, it’s always a better day when the ball drops in front of someone or flies over a fence. Lindor had one of each Tuesday. After walking in the first, he drilled a single that fell in front of Houston center fielder Jose Siri in the third.

And in the sixth, Lindor jumped on an 89 mph fastball at the knees from Jairo Solis and yanked it onto the grassy knoll far beyond the right-field fence.

“It felt great to be able to pull the baseball the correct way,” Lindor said after the Mets’ 8-3 win over the Astros was complete. “It was a pitch that was supposed to be pulled, and I did that.”

It was part of an encouraging 10-hit Mets’ offensive output on the day, Lindor joining Alonso and Dominic Smith in leaving the yard, deGrom no doubt wondering if it’s possible to bank a few of those March runs for May and July.

“We have good hitters, young hitters who continue to evolve, continue to get better,” Lindor said. “I’m very excited for what the year has ahead of us, looking forward to being a part of something good that they have here.”

Power has been a linchpin of Lindor’s game, and he hit 103 home runs in the three full seasons before pandemic-shortened 2020. Coupled with his defense and speed, it helped make him one of baseball’s unique talents in Cleveland, and made him so attractive to the Mets as they attempted to bolster their lineup this winter.

But it’s a skill set Lindor said he only developed out of necessity.

“That was where the game was heading to,” he said. “I adjusted to what the game was moving toward.”

He prefers a different path.

“My game has never been being a power hitter,” he said. “I’m more gap-to-gap, putting the ball in play, be on base for the guys and score 100 or more runs.”

He smiled, of course.

“I love me some defense,” he said. “I love making some plays. I value that.”

He is an old-school player with an old soul, one who admires players he watched when he was a kid, and players from before he was born whom he’s heard about. He says it was a “better-rounded” game then.

“It was a better-played game then,” he said.

It is impossible not to tag along for the ride when he starts talking ball, and easy to wonder just what he’ll bring to the Mets this year. Spring is fun, but we’re so close to the real stuff that it’s getting to be time to look ahead. Sixteen days till Opening Day. Oh yeah.

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