JUPITER, Fla. — Jeff McNeil isn’t taking his underwhelming spring training lightly.
The competitor within the fiery Mets infielder wants to succeed regardless of the stakes, and according to manager Luis Rojas, has been focused on finding the root of his Grapefruit League troubles. In 15 games this spring, McNeil has slashed .116/.269/.256 with one homer and two RBIs.
“He’s been having a different spring,” Rojas said before the Mets lost 10-2 to the Marlins in an exhibition game Sunday. “I thought his approach at the beginning wasn’t the same.”
Rojas added that McNeil wasn’t as “preloaded” at the plate as usual, allowing him a good release and better contact. The manager said he’s seen a better approach from McNeil in the last week.
“He’s very much media oriented, so he has been watching a lot of video,” Rojas said. “I see him after the game just studying himself, watching himself, comparing past stances and he’s made the adjustment, but it’s been good.”
Rojas said he’s been happy with McNeil defensively at second base. McNeil started a game at third earlier this spring and committed three errors, but he figures to receive the majority of his playing time at second. The Mets view second base as his best position, followed by left field and third base.
Many established players would dismiss poor spring training statistics, but that isn’t part of McNeil’s DNA.
“He is very competitive,” Rojas said. “He wants to win, it doesn’t matter whatever it is. The game of baseball, he is just going to be like that, but even in other stuff he wants to win and he gets very feisty. He’s a competitor and he’s really hard on himself.
“That’s the person he is and that is what brings out the best in Jeff McNeil. We work on that so he can manage and how to be hard on himself and stuff like that, but that is how he works.”
McNeill slashed .311/.383/.454 last season with four homers and 23 RBIs.
“He’s going to be pretty hard on himself if things are not going well,” Rojas said. “He is very much results oriented, so he will get mad even if he hits a bullet and somebody makes a diving catch. But if he hits a broken-bat blooper he will be celebrating. We will try to channel that to make sure we relay what was done right even though the results weren’t what he wanted.”