Michael Conforto (shoulder) said he recently began hitting off the tee. Wants to beat his target return date of May 1. Also fielded this question from A.J. Ramos: “How important is it to look good in your pants?” pic.twitter.com/zI9ilo0rzT— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) February 20, 2018
As curious as I am to know what Scooter's answer is to AJ's pants question, let's focus on the other content.
Conforto's shoulder injury is a tenuous one. A capsule injury is very rare in a hitter. In this case, it was likely caused by an old football injury. WHile doctors anticipate that the surgery will mean correcting the problem for good, no one really knows exactly how it will respond. So there are plenty of variables in Conforto's rehab case.
But the fact that he's already swinging a bat is a very positive sign. And I love Conforto's determination to get back on the field in April, because the Mets are going to need him to contend in the NL East.
In a season cursed by continuous disappointment and let downs, it's easy to forget how incredible Conforto's breakout 2017 season was. Despite being limited to just 104 games, Conforto mashed 27 homers, posted 3.6 WAR (second on the team to only Jacob deGrom), and slashed .279/.384/.555.
Go deeper in to the stats and it only gets more impressive. Conforto's chase rate returned to 2015 levels (28.9%, down from 31.2% in 2016). His hard-hit rate was an absurd 41.6%. He made a little less contact, swung slightly less often, and hit less fly balls, but still was able to lose 27 balls. A more patient, yet more powerful Conforto? Sounds good to me.
So when Conforto gets back in the lineup, the Mets will be a far better team. That said, it's more important for him to be in the lineup in July, August, and September than it is that he plays in April. Michael knows this. He said as much in the offseason. And while I admire the fact that he's eager to get out on the field as soon as he can, I think he'll ultimately pace himself to make sure that he's healthy for the long haul.
Mickey Callaway agrees.
"I want to make sure when he's back, he's back," the Mets manager told reporters.
But for now, Conforto took a nice step forward, and it's a very encouraging sign for his 2018 season.
Photo credit: Dale Zanine | USA TODAY Sports