Andres Gimenez turning heads after surprisingly making Mets

WASHINGTON — Andres Gimenez was a surprise roster addition at the end of spring training 2.0, but suddenly has assumed a larger role with the Mets.

Robinson Cano’s recent move to the injured list with a grade 2 abductor strain and ailments to Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario that kept both removed from the starting lineup for the past two days elevated the rookie Gimenez to indispensable status as manager Luis Rojas struggled to fill out a lineup.

Gimenez, who has also played third base and second base, received a second straight start at shortstop Wednesday as Rosario remained sidelined with quadriceps tightness.

The Mets have long known about Gimenez’s smooth fielding, but his offense has been equally prevalent in the first two weeks of the season. He was 7-for-21 (.333) with two stolen bases entering Wednesday’s game against the Nationals.

“He’s going to be a great player,” McNeil said. “His defense is incredibly smooth and he’s going to make every single play and he’s a good scrappy bat as well. He’s going to put the ball in play and he’s going to make a lot of things happen for this team.”

The 21-year-old Gimenez struggled offensively last year at Double-A Binghamton, in part because he was adapting to a new leg-kick he implemented early in the season, but then won the batting title in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .371 in 75 plate appearances.

“I think last year was a year of adjustments for me and it led into the Arizona Fall League,” Gimenez said through an interpreter. “I also included a leg kick in my swing and I think that has helped me as well, but I continue to work every single day and it’s not just my hitting I work on. I try to work on my entire package.”

Gimenez’s defense never has been a question, with his quick footwork and strong throwing arm. Gimenez’s speed is another asset. All were attributes Luis Rojas had seen managing Gimenez in 2018 at Binghamton, but the infielder’s offensive improvement has been the surprise.

“I saw it in spring training, back in February and March, the difference in his stance, how he is more upright,” Rojas said. “He is more on top of the ball and creating more leverage opposed to before when he used to be more squatted and kind of timing, balancing back and forth to get the bat out. Now it’s less effort to get the at out. He’s a little bit stronger and that causes him to have more recognition of pitches and create more power.

“He is doing different things, spraying the ball. He used to be like a slap hitter, now he is this guy that if you make a mistake with him he can do some real damage, so great job by him with the muscle part getting stronger and also working on the hitting mechanics to become the hitter he is right now.”

If the Mets are fortunate enough to get their three infielders back, Gimenez’s role could largely be to assume a super-utility role, although Cano could move into a DH situation that would open up second base.

If the Mets have a longer-term opening, it could give Gimenez the opportunity he needs to show he can play every day in 2021.

“It feels good, putting in that work day by day to give my best and be available when the team needs me,” Gimenez said. “I think that is the most important thing for me.”

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