Jeff McNeil got encouraging message from Brandon Nimmo before crushing homer

CINCINNATI — Nothing worked for Jeff McNeil over his first five games of the season, when he collected one hit, was dropped to seventh in the order, got into a tussle with Rhys Hoskins and was the face of a deeply slumping Mets offense. 

His teammates, though, did not write off the 2022 batting champion.

One teammate, in fact, wrote encouragingly for McNeil, who might have broken out of his funk. 

Jeff McNeil hits a solo home run in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 3-2 win over the Reds. Getty Images

Friday afternoon, Brandon Nimmo etched a message to McNeil on a bag of batting gloves: “Swing at good pitches and hit it where they’re not.”

McNeil followed the technically sound advice and smacked his first home run of the year, an eighth-inning shot deep into the right-field bleachers, for an insurance run that ultimately was needed. 

“That one felt good,” McNeil said after just his second hit of the season, helping the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. “Haven’t been swinging the bat like I wanted to, so being able to get that big hit meant a lot.” 

McNeil entered the at-bat 1-for-18 after a Grapefruit League season in which he was 0-for-13.

Jeff McNeil got some sage advice from Brandon
Nimmo. Mark W. Sanchez/New York Post

His spring was sidetracked by a sore biceps and his offseason was sidetracked by a partially torn UCL, an injury that might have contributed to his poor 2023, when he hit just .270. 

Manager Carlos Mendoza reminded that McNeil won the batting title, hitting .326 in 2022, and McNeil’s teammates have tried to keep his confidence up. 

Jeff McNeil hugs designated hitter DJ Stewart (29) after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of the Mets’ win. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s been tough,” McNeil acknowledged. “Trying to stay positive when things aren’t going your way is difficult. So it’s nice to have a team full of guys that have your back. The hits are going to drop.” 

Friday’s hit dropped, McNeil successfully hitting it where they’re not. 

“There’s nobody in the right-field bleachers,” he said with a smile. 

The Mets officially added an old foe to their rotation, but Julio Teheran might not be recognizable when he makes his starting debut Monday. 

Teheran, a weapon for the Braves from 2011-19, has pitched to a lifetime 3.24 ERA in 30 starts against the Mets.

After a right shoulder strain cost him most of his 2021 season and helped lead to his being out of MLB all of 2022, Teheran has reinvented himself.

His old slider is now a cutter.

Julio Teheran is joining the Mets. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

His two-seamer “for some reason is running a little more,” he said. His changeup is new. 

The 33-year-old pitched to a 3.38 ERA this spring with the Orioles, did not make the team and opted out of his minor league contract.

He continued throwing in Miami, facing free-agent hitters such as Jean Segura and Yuli Gurriel — hitters who had seen him for years, and hitters who told him he looks brand-new. 

“This is nothing like it was when they faced me before,” Teheran said Friday, upon reporting to his new team. “New pitches, everything is like new.” 

The Mets have found their new fifth starter, who is expected to slide into the rotation beginning Monday in Atlanta. Injuries to Kodai Senga and Tylor Megill created a need, and the Mets were persistent in their interest in Teheran.

He said he had to decide between the Mets and Orioles for a team this spring, and he felt Baltimore presented more opportunity, but injuries have changed that equation. 

Because he has continued throwing, Teheran is expected to be able to throw 70-75 pitches Monday, Mendoza said. 

For a third time in his career, he will face the Braves.

For a first time, he will be pitching for a Mets club that he used to torment. 

“It feels weird,” Teheran said. “I haven’t realized that I’m on this side now.” 

J.D. Martinez, who had been getting at-bats in sim games and live batting practices at the Mets’ facility, officially joined Low-A St. Lucie and went 0-for-4 with a walk while serving as designated hitter for the affiliate Friday. 

Martinez likely will play with St. Lucie again Saturday and probably will get the day off Sunday, Mendoza said.

The team and its slugger are expected to talk this weekend about when he feels ready to join the big-league Mets. 

“The last thing you want is to rush this guy,” Mendoza said. 

Nimmo was out of the lineup after feeling tightness in his right hamstring while running the bases in the first inning of the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader. 

Brandon Nimmo did not play Friday night. Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Nimmo was able to finish the game because he served as DH. Mendoza said Nimmo came in “feeling a lot better” Friday and may be able to return to the lineup Saturday.

The Mets have not sent Nimmo for an MRI exam. 

“Believe we dodged a bullet here,” Mendoza said. 

To create roster space for Teheran, the Mets designated Michael Tonkin for assignment. 

The 34-year-old righty lasted just three appearances with the Mets, among the last to crack the Opening Day roster.

He allowed eight runs (two earned) in four innings, including a rough, three-run 11th inning that led to the Mets’ loss Thursday afternoon in the front end of a doubleheader. 

The Reds held a moment of silence for Pat Zachry, a pitcher who was the Rookie of the Year for Cincinnati in 1976 and traded the next year to the Mets in the infamous Tom Seaver swap. 

Zachry, who pitched for the Mets from 1977-82 and was an All-Star in ’78, died Thursday in Waco, Texas, at the age of 71.


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