Robinson Canó to try first base again as New York Mets experiment in spring training

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Robinson Canó is ready to take another swing at first base.

A second baseman throughout his career, Canó is scheduled to play first in spring training Thursday as the New York Mets experiment with options that could keep his bat in the lineup on occasion.

The 39-year-old Canó has played 2,158 games at second base during his 16-year major league career. His only experience at first was 14 games with the Seattle Mariners in 2018.

"They're going to do some things with him tomorrow morning so it's not cold turkey," Mets manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday night.

Jeff McNeil is penciled in as New York's primary second baseman this season. Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith top the depth chart at first, while Canó figures to fit often as the designated hitter -- which gets adopted in the National League this year.

But the Mets are looking for defensive insurance and other ways to get at-bats for Canó, a .303 career hitter with 334 home runs and 2,624 hits.

He sat out the entire 2021 season while serving his second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

"He's still going to play some second base, but he's so excited to be back with the team and being in a position to contribute," Showalter said.

The new Mets manager said putting guys in different positions is important this time of year.

Utility infielder Luis Guillorme played third base in Tuesday night's 10-0 win over the Miami Marlins. Eduardo Escobar, an All-Star third baseman with Arizona last year, was at second base Wednesday night against Houston.

"Just because you're an infielder doesn't mean you're going to be comfortable at any (position)," Showalter said. "We're trying to get them a different angle, a different look, before we get out of here."

New York opens the season at Washington on April 7.

Back from a left oblique issue, newcomer Starling Marte is ticketed for right field even though he's never played there in the majors. The 33-year-old Marte won two Gold Gloves in left field with Pittsburgh (2015-16) and has spent plenty of time in center.

"It's a good fit for us," Showalter said. "Our right field is hard to play. If Starling gets acclimated, I think he'll figure it out.

"We're already having to adjust with his arm strength. We're starting to notice that he can do (things) that normal people don't. ... There are going to be some really entertaining throws he makes this year."

Leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo will remain in center field, with newcomer Mark Canha in left.

"(Nimmo's) one of three guys capable of playing there," Showalter said. "We'll probably start that way, with the other two guys where they are."

Game notes

Alonso hit his first homer of the spring Wednesday night, a three-run shot in the 5-3 loss to the Astros. ... Carlos Carrasco pitched four innings in his first Grapefruit League game. He allowed three runs and six hits, including homers by Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez. Carrasco is looking to lock up a spot at the back of the rotation. The 35-year-old right-hander had elbow surgery in October after going 1-5 with a 6.04 ERA over 12 starts last season during a disappointing debut with the Mets that was delayed by a hamstring injury. "I thought he was crisper this time," Showalter said. "I know he felt pretty good about it."