Dominic Smith is starting a rehab assignment that does not have a clear ending.
He has not played since spraining his right ankle July 16, and in his time away, Smith has been replaced by lefty sluggers Daniel Vogelbach (at designated hitter) and Tyler Naquin (in left field).
Smith was expected to play five innings and receive two or three at-bats Thursday night with Triple-A Syracuse, which was playing at Lehigh Valley.
Smith’s former DH partner, J.D. Davis, was traded to the Giants at the deadline. Smith has remained with the Mets, though they do not have a clear spot for him.
“I envision him getting at-bats and going through a rehab assignment in Syracuse,” manager Buck Showalter said before the Mets played the Braves at Citi Field. “And when he’s deemed ready to physically be activated, I’m sure Billy [Eppler] and I and staff will sit down and talk about what’s next.”
Position players are allowed to embark on a rehab assignment for up to 20 days.
“We’ll see how long that’s going to take,” Showalter said of Smith, who was optioned to Syracuse for about a month earlier this season.
Smith, who played like a star in 2019 and 2020, has not been able to find his form since. He is hitting .194 without a home run in 58 games for the Mets this season, and the likeliest outcome is when he is ready, they will keep him in the minors.
But depth in the minors is often called upon when injuries strike.
“Who knows what happens by the time Dom is physically able to start playing again?” Showalter said.
Jeff McNeil has not played a game in the outfield since July 22, as the additions — especially of the lefty-hitting Naquin — have allowed McNeil to stick at his more natural second base.
In the nine games he had played on the infield dirt in the span, McNeil was hitting .342 entering play. It’s possible there is a correlation and McNeil’s legs are fresher, but Showalter was skeptical.
“Maybe I’m wrong, but he’s been a pretty good offensive player wherever we put him,” Showalter said.
Brandon Nimmo was named the Mets’ recipient of the 2022 Heart and Hustle Award, which recognizes one player from each team who “demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”
One player will be chosen as the final Heart and Hustle Award recipient, as voted on by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
The Mets optioned catcher Patrick Mazeika to Syracuse to make room for James McCann.
Before the game, the Mets played a clip of Mookie Wilson hitting the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series, a moment called on TV by Vin Scully. The Mets then had a moment of silence before their first home game since Scully’s death Tuesday.