PORT ST. LUCIE — Grapefruit League statistics often deceive, but the sound of the ball connecting with Pete Alonso’s bat this spring is unmistakably real.
On a mission to stay disciplined at the plate and return to his rookie 2019 level, the Mets first baseman is “locked in,” according to manager Luis Rojas, and showing an early level of consistency that was absent from his game last season.
“I’m really happy with how my spring is going so far,” Alonso said before the Mets lost 4-2 to the Marlins on Friday at Clover Park. “I’ve made a lot of really good, quality swings and made some good plays on the defensive side of the ball. I’m just looking to continue to progress and get ready for the season. I know we have got a long way to go.”
To be exact, 14 exhibition games remain before the Mets will play their season opener on April 1 in Washington. Alonso, with a loud RBI double against the Marlins, owns a 1.312 OPS this spring with two homers. The double was extra sweet for the fans in attendance, all of whom won a “double stack” burger from a fast food chain.
Last season — a year after he smashed a rookie record 53 homers — was hardly a disaster for Alonso, but in the 60-game sprint, his slow start became more pronounced. He finished with a .231/.326/.490 slash line, 16 homers and 35 RBIs.
Now, the Mets are watching him stick to a plan instead of tinkering when he has a bad at-bat or game.
“He’s not trying to find out what can work,” Rojas said. “It seems like he already knows what works for him and he’s just repeating, even though if he has failure in that at-bat he will come the next time and you will see him repeating.
“He will get his pitch. He will make outs and just to see him [understand] that he’s going to get outs, he doesn’t need to try harder, he just needs to bring his approach to the plate and he’ll get results. He’s being consistent, so he definitely looks a lot more focused.”
As camp started, Alonso said he would know what kind of spring he was having if he could keep track of the number of pitches he had chased. He put that number at four heading into Friday, suggesting discipline within the strike zone.
“If you really dug into it, maybe one or two more, but I think the number is four,” Alonso said.
“I feel like my progression is going really well right now and I am extremely satisfied with how everything is going and I just want to continue this good form, good momentum. I just want to keep coming in and working diligently and sticking to my plan.”
Earlier in the week, Alonso had his contract renewed by the Mets for $676,775, according to the Associated Press. That came after the two sides failed to reach agreement — but because he isn’t yet arbitration-eligible, Alonso had no leverage.
“Absolutely no bitterness,” said Alonso, whose teammate Jeff McNeil was also renewed. “Right now there’s very little I can do because I’m a zero-to-three player and this is one of those circumstances where I can exercise the only right I have and I thought it would be best to exercise that right.”
Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Dominic Smith and Michael Conforto form the nucleus of a lineup that figures to compete with most in the National League.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” Alonso said. “We have such a talented lineup with the new additions and with that there is expectations to win and for me I just want to be locked in and ready to go.”
To complete a recent drill, the Mets celebrated on the field as if they had just won the World Series. Alonso was part of that session and considers it a dress rehearsal for October.
“You’ve got to practice it if it’s going to happen, you know?” Alonso said. “Practicing it is a good thing because you’re kind of thinking that way. You are preparing for it and that’s a tangible way to kind of prepare and think about going forward, because that is the ultimate goal.”