PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Patience was key for Brandon Nimmo.
The 24-year-old outfielder hit .260 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 177 at-bats last year, fighting for playing time behind Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares.
During the offseason, there were rumors he could be traded, perhaps in a deal that would have brought the Mets outfielder Andrew McCutchen and second baseman Josh Harrison.
New York kept Nimmo, a former first-round draft pick who could start Thursday’s opener in center field as Conforto recovers from shoulder surgery that figures to keep him from major league games for a few more weeks.
“They had the opportunity to go with a year of an All-Star outfielder in McCutchen and Harrison,” Nimmo said. “To be able to be in those conversations is good because it means other teams want you, and it also means the Mets really like you enough to keep you around.
“I did take some confidence from that. This is the organization I grew up with. Most people might overlook that. From 18 until now, I’ve been a Met and it’s what I’ve grown up in. This is definitely where I want to be, and I’m definitely glad they kept me.”
Nimmo and Lagares figure to split time in center until Conforto returns.
“Juan Lagares is a very good defensive outfielder. We have to take that into account,” new Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “There are going to be games where we’ll value defense probably a little more based on who has an off day that day.”
Nimmo was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2011, one slot ahead of Jose Fernandez. Nimmo hit .306 in spring training with 11 extra-base hits, three homers and 11 RBIs.
“He’s a worker. He’s so prepared, and he works,” Callaway said. “You get a player like that and the results are going to come. I’m really proud of him for the way he goes about his business. Very impressive. He’s locked in every pitch. Those are the type players you need to win.”
Pat Roessler, promoted to hitting coach this season after three years as an assistant, says Nimmo has altered his approach at the plate.
“He’s made some swing adjustments. He’s on time and he’s getting the ball in the air more, so he’s looking to do some damage early in the count,” Roessler said. “He’s not taking some pitches early in the count like he was last year. He’s on the patient side anyway. His swing percentage on the first pitch was low. He had room to move up and still be kind of average. He’s jumping on some balls he thinks he can drive, and it’s starting to show.”
Notes: The Mets claimed OF Bryce Brentz off waivers from Pittsburgh, which obtained him from Boston last month. The 29-year-old was an International League All-Star last year, when he hit .271 for Triple-A Pawtucket with a career-best 31 homers and 85 RBIs. … RHPs Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom started in an intrasquad game between the Mets and Triple-A Las Vegas. Harvey gave up a run on a squeeze bunt by deGrom, a former college shortstop. “It was good to get out there and break up some of the time. It was fun, different,” Harvey. Harvey will likely throw two bullpen sessions before his first start, against Philadelphia.
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