Michael Conforto’s future is uncertain and his recent past has been disappointing. But neither will impact his present, the Mets outfielder insists.
After taking batting practice Friday before the Mets hosted the Pirates at Citi Field, Conforto didn’t hide from his struggles in a one-on-one interview with The Post, admitting this season hasn’t gone anywhere close to what he planned.
He missed five weeks with a hamstring strain suffered on May 16. Both before and since the injury, he has struggled immensely at the plate in his walk year before he becomes a free agent. In 48 games, he had posted an un-Conforto-like .200/.335/.284 slash line with two home runs and 16 RBIs. For a player with a career slugging percentage of .471 and career OPS of .828, those numbers are jarring. He was beginning to swing better before the injury, hitting safely in six of his previous nine games at that point.
“That was the frustrating part. I was feeling like I was starting to hit my stride, starting to feel good at the plate and then the hammy goes,” Conforto said. “Five weeks is five weeks, but ultimately I felt like I could come back and help the team win games. I wasn’t anticipating struggling the way I have over the last 10 to 15 games or so, but this is a tough game.”
Conforto said he does think about his future in free time. When spring training ended without a contract extension, it was apparent he was headed to free agency. When he’s at the ballpark, though, he’s able to concentrate on what’s most important: helping the Mets win games.
He recently sat down with manager Luis Rojas and hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum in an attempt to pinpoint why he has been unable to get on track since coming off the injured list on June 23.
In his first game back, he had two hits and drove in a run. Since then, he had gone 3-for-38 with 15 strikeouts. Rojas and Quattlebaum noticed some bad habits he picked up, adjustments he can make to get right. Early in the year, he was way out in front. Lately, he’s been staying back too much and not attacking the ball, being too indecisive. Conforto recently watched film with Quattlebaum of last year, when he batted .322 and had a .927 OPS.
“We found some things that are pretty simple fixes,” Conforto said. “We’ve got a couple things we’re working on now that I feel pretty confident we’re on the right track.
“I feel more like myself in the cage, I feel more like myself in [batting practice] put there. …. I’m feeling much more like myself.”
As disappointing as his performance has been, the team’s success has lessened his frustration. It’s made it easier for him to look ahead instead of agonizing over his struggles. If anything, it has motivated him to find his stroke even more, knowing there are
‘so many big opportunities ahead.
“I don’t like my numbers — I like where the team is at, which is where I’m trying to keep the focus,” he said. “Part of me is frustrated as well, knowing that the team could be in a much better spot if I had played even a little bit more like myself. But that being said, I know there’s another half of baseball left. These games are all very important, but there is a little bit more on the line as we get down to the end of the season, and we’re in a position where we should be playing in the playoffs. That’s where I can really make an impact, playing in those big games.”
Conforto made it clear he expects to get going well before then. He said he believes there are adjustments he has made that should produce better results.
“I need to start playing better,” Conforto said. “[Our success] takes a little pressure off me, but I need to start playing better.”