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Steven Matz on his outing in the 5-4 loss to the Nationals
Matt Ehalt, Staff Writer, @MattEhalt

NEW YORK — Mets manager Mickey Callaway says the team’s goal with first baseman Dom Smith is to further the youngster’s development.

The challenge, though, is finding the right spot for that development.

The manager indicated before the 5-4 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field that the Mets are considering optioning Smith to the minors while he struggles offensively in limited playing time, and there appears to be momentum toward a demotion.Smith struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, and has started only 15 of the Mets’ last 29 games.

Mets lefty Steven Matz (4-7), who is unlikely to be traded, allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings while being outdueled by Max Scherzer.

“He’s been struggling at the plate. He looks indecisive at times,” Callaway said of Smith. “We just need to constantly evaluate where he can get the best development.”

Still the future?

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson referred to Smith as the team’s future first baseman not that long ago, yet Smith can’t even work his way into the lineup despite the wins and losses not mattering. He’s started just 10 games at first base since being promoted on June 12, and has also made six starts in left field, his secondary position.

The Mets could shift Wilmer Flores to third base and play Smith at first base on a regular basis, but there are reservations about Flores’ defense at the hot corner. The Mets also are willing to trade Flores, per a source, and it’s best to enhance his value. 

Smith also hasn’t helped his cause by going 4-for-41 in his last 16 games with 16 strikeouts. He somehow has just one RBI in 27 games.

“I know I’m capable of doing more offensively, playing, not playing, stuff like that,” Smith said. “You got to figure out ways to keep having quality at-bats and grinding them out and constantly put those together one day at a time. That’s how stuff will get rolling.”

Smith said he feels “OK” at the plate but acknowledged his lack of consistent at-bats.

“You know if you have a bad game and you’re not in the lineup the next day you try to press more or do more,” Smith said. “It just kind of weighs on your mentally for sure. You want to play and want to do well and just worry about other things.”

Will a demotion work?

Demoting Smith makes theory since normally he would receive regular playing time, but the Mets recently promoted prospect Peter Alonso.

Alonso’s ascension gives the team an alternative in case Smith does not develop as the team hopes, but Alonso entered Thursday with a .698 OPS with Class AAA Las Vegas.

Smith is a lefty and Alonso is a righty so a platoon could work in theory, but that would not be ideal for their development. Smith could always play in the outfield to allow for both to get their bats into the lineup, but his future is not as an outfielder.

A source indicated Smith could be optioned after the All-Star break.

While Smith knows of Alonso, he isn’t worrying about what Alonso’s rise in the organization means for his future. He’s just focused on winning over the coaches.

“You try to impress them every day and impress them with the work you put in and your play,” Smith said. “I try to play hard and do the right things and that’s all I can control.”

Tough call

Smith struck out as a pinch hitter in a critical spot Thursday while representing the tying run in the seventh inning with the Mets trailing, 5-3. He heard some boos afterward.

While Matz pitched well in the loss, two Anthony Rendon homers foiled his night.

Matz allowed a two-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the third, and a source said the Mets are not receiving trade inquiries on the lefty. He’s expected to stay.

The lefty finished the first half with a 3.38 ERA.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Matz said. “Made some bad pitches, mainly on Rendon. I thought they had a pretty good approach on me. It was a scuffle.”

Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins, whose struggles against lefties have plummeted his value, allowed a crushing two-run homer to Bryce Harper in the seventh that put the Mets in a 5-2 hole. Moving Blevins will be challenging due to his ineffectiveness and salary.

The Mets (37-54) stranded the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth, and Amed Rosario hit into a game-ending double play with the tying run at first.

“I think I’m trying to be too fine,” Blevins said. “Every pitch I’m trying to make it perfect and it’s clearly not happening.”

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