Francisco Lindor takes batting practice as Mets shortstop situation gets desperate

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The Mets’ shortstop situation is currently very ashen.

Javier Baez is fighting tightness in his left hip that matriculated up to his lower back. Luis Guillorme has a strained hamstring and Jose Peraza fractured a finger that’s kept him out since mid-July. Jonathan Villar is a capable fill-in, but for a team that’s fighting tooth-and-nail to stay relevant in the NL East race, he doesn’t inspire much confidence as an everyday shortstop.

The rest of the depth chart is even scarier, as manager Luis Rojas said that second baseman/outfielder Jeff McNeil would be the next man up if they need another shortstop, while noting that Brandon Drury and his 57 career innings at the position could lend a hand too.

On Wednesday afternoon, a potential phoenix was seen rising from those ashes.

Francisco Lindor took batting practice at Citi Field before the start of Wednesday’s doubleheader. He’s been hampered by an oblique injury since July 16, necessitating the trade for Baez that so far has been disenchanting. Taking swings on the field is a big step for Lindor, as the oblique is an area heavily involved in swinging a baseball bat.

“He looked great,” Rojas said. “It’s nice to see him ramping things up. This was the first time he’s hit on the field. He gave good feedback so this is a good step.”

The franchise shortstop also simulated game activities like fielding ground balls, stealing a base and running from the batter’s box to second base. When pressed about when Lindor could begin a rehab assignment — the season’s clock is rapidly ticking, after all — Rojas did not provide the answer many eager fans wanted to hear.

“We’re approaching this week-to-week,” Rojas warned. “This is a plan that our performance staff has with him. It was a good day, there’s nothing more to say. I can’t tell you what’s coming up next.”

VOLUNTEER PITCHER

On Wednesday, when the Mets pressed play on Tuesday’s suspended game, Rich Hill was the first pitcher on the mound.

“Rich Hill is going to take the ball,” Rojas said. “We’re going to have him pick up this game where it was left off. Marcus Stroman is going to start game two.”

Hill was going to start on Thursday but this series with Washington quickly became an all hands on deck situation. Because of that, the veteran stepped up and told his manager that he could alter his normal routine to avoid a full-on bullpen day.

“Last night he offered to pitch and pick up the game where it was,” Rojas detailed. When the rain never stopped and the game never picked up, Rojas decided to let Hill transfer that energy to Wednesday.

“He feels really good about going. There’s no concern. This guy’s a veteran. He showed up wanting the ball.”

When he got the ball, Hill gave Rojas three innings with four strikeouts. Unfortunately, he also walked three and let three runs in, leaving the game with the Mets trailing 6-4 in the fifth inning.

The Mets’ starting pitcher for Thursday is still to be determined. Waiver claim Geoff Hartlieb — a 27-year-old right-hander who’s split his season between the Pirates’ and Mets’ Triple-A teams — is with the team if needed. Rojas said that Trevor Williams, a pitcher with nearly 600 MLB innings that the Mets picked up from the Cubs in the Baez trade and stashed in the minor leagues, is also an option for Thursday.

SYNDERGAARD SEEN SHIRTLESS AT CITI

Lindor wasn’t the only injured Met seeing some pitches in the batting cage on Wednesday. Noah Syndergaard was out there as well, but his shirt was not.

Wearing just team-issued gym shorts, the Nordic god who has not played in a big-league game since September 2019 grabbed a bat for some batting practice and also went through light workouts. In his press conference on Tuesday, acting general manager Zack Scott said if Syndergaard does in fact pitch for the Mets in 2021, it would likely be out of the bullpen.

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