The ironic weakness during the Mets’ hot start

ATLANTA — Now it’s time to get the big boys hitting.

As manager Mickey Callaway evaluates the Mets’ fast start this season, the most surprising aspect might be it has occurred without Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce playing near their expected levels.

The trio — the nucleus of the Mets’ lineup — is hitting a combined .199 heading into a three-game series that begins Tuesday against the Cardinals. Conforto has been the best of the group, receiving his walks, and Cespedes has delivered game-winning hits, but Bruce has largely been MIA.

“You look at our record and see what those guys have done and the rest of the guys have stepped up and gotten us where we need to get,” Callaway said before Sunday’s game against the Braves at SunTrust Park was postponed by rain. “Now obviously [Cespedes, Conforto and Bruce] have hit some key grand slams or base hits late in games to win us games, but to have the best record in the National League and having our guys where they are at says a lot about our clubhouse.”

Asdrubal Cabrera has been the team MVP to this point, posting a .999 OPS for a team averaging 4.8 runs.

But the Mets also have received contributions from Todd Frazier and bench players Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo and Wilmer Flores to keep the lineup afloat. And yet the Mets realize more is needed.

“You would think sitting where we are at, we would have the bats really going and we are 20 games in, it’s still very early,” Conforto said. “We are going to get going. Jay is a 30-homer guy every single year, he’s shown it. Ces obviously has his track record, and I know I am going to get going here soon. It’s just a matter of time.”

Bruce, who is slashing .194/.280/.328 with one homer and eight RBIs, has struggled the most. Bruce insisted the plantar fasciitis that has flared up in his left foot on occasion beginning in spring training has not been an issue.

“The foot actually has been feeling much better,” Bruce said. “I definitely haven’t played as well as I want to or expect to or will. The timing is on and off and it’s one of those deals.

“It happens from time to time and unfortunately it’s at the beginning here, but working every day in the cage and continuing to improve and really trust my work and the process I have trusted for a long time and just working. That’s all there is to it.”

Cespedes has delivered game-winning hits against the Nationals, Marlins and Braves, but largely has struggled, slashing .195/.258/.354 with four homers and 18 RBIs. He recently suggested he might begin playing golf again in-season to help his swing.

“One of the things I am doing now that I didn’t do before is watching the videos,” Cespedes said. “That’s something different I am doing right now, but unfortunately it’s not going too well so far.”

Conforto, who missed much of the Grapefruit League season rehabbing from shoulder surgery, said his slow start might be a case of not getting in enough work over the winter. He is slashing .213/.387/.340 with one homer and five RBIs.

“I am seeing it well and swinging at the right pitches most of the time,” Conforto said. “But it’s just squaring up that mistake is the big thing for me.”

“It’s definitely not having the offseason to work. Not having the normal spring. Just kind of playing catch-up a little bit, but I feel good right now.”

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