Luis Rojas discusses Kevin Pillar-Dominic Smith decisions for Opening Day lineup

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Ryan Morik
·2 min read
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Luis Rojas in mask tight shot
Luis Rojas in mask tight shot

After the best season of his young career and a 13th place finish in the NL MVP vote, Dominic Smith is notably not in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

Not to worry - he's all good, according to manager Luis Rojas.

“Everything’s good with him. I checked with him last night just to give him the heads up that he wasn’t gonna start, that he should be ready to come in at any point, whether early or late," Rojas said.

Much of the reason for Monday's lineup has to do with the Mets liking Kevin Pillar leading off against the lefty Matt Moore tonight.

“We’re going more with the matchup. A guy like Pillar, the way he’s been swinging the bat against lefties in the last few years, this spring, just gives us that chance..." Rojas said. "KP we feel is a good matchup. We have him batting leadoff so we get the most at bats against the lefty."

Pillar slashed .342/.390/.579 against lefties last year, as compared to hitting .258 with a .699 OPS against righties. So it makes sense why the Mets want Pillar to get as many at-bats against a lefty as possible.

But this move forced Brandon Nimmo to be dropped in the order, though Rojas has an ideal situation in that aspect.

"We know he can give us quality at-bats against a lefty, too. He’ll be hitting in front of the pitcher," said Rojas. "We know how deep he can get, he can get on base, [Jacob deGrom] can probably move him over, and things like that. And bring back Pillar with a runner in scoring position, if we have that scenario."

Left-handed hitters Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil are also in the lineup, but with Pillar in center and Smith on the bench to start, the Mets also have their best defensive outfield to start the ballgame.

But Rojas knows Smith's bat can, and should, be used when necessary.

"We’ll probably need [him[ at some point if it falls to the situation. But he’s cool. He’ll be ready to come in when we need him in the game," he said.