Mets' Carlos Mendoza says Jeff McNeil 'is still our second baseman' despite being out of lineup once again

For the second straight day, Jeff McNeil is out of the Mets’ lineup as they continue their series with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

It’s also the third time in the last four games that McNeil has not been in the lineup, and even though a left-handed pitcher has been on the mound for all three of those games, it’s still notable that one of the Mets’ highest paid position players has found himself on the bench.

So, when manager Carlos Mendoza met with reporters for his pregame availability on Tuesday, he knew McNeil being on the bench would be a topic. And while he committed to McNeil continuing to get playing time, he didn’t commit to him being an everyday player.

“Look, I know obviously it’s a story and a topic because Jeff is not in the lineup today for the second day in a row. It’s just one of those [where Jose] Iglesias had a good game yesterday,” Mendoza said. “Look, McNeil is still our second baseman. For us to get to where we’re going to get, we’re going to need Jeff McNeil to be the player we all know he’s capable of. Right now, it’s one of those where I’m going with Iglesias today, and we’ll go from there.”

“Again, Jeff McNeil will continue to play,” Mendoza later added. “If not tomorrow, we’ve got a long ways to go. He’s going to be a big part of this team moving forward.”

Iglesias, who is once again starting at second, had a terrific game on Monday and was a key piece of the Mets’ 8-7 victory. The veteran had three hits, scored two runs, and added an RBI and a stolen base. In a very, very small sample size, Iglesias has hit .455 (five hits in 11 at-bats) with two RBI.

Meanwhile, the 2024 season has been a slog for McNeil, as the former NL batting champ is slashing .227/.296/.320 with three home runs and 14 RBI. McNeil’s current batting average is 66 points below his career average (.293), but Mendoza believes the 32-year-old will be ready for his next chance.

“Everybody wants to play, and I respect that,” Mendoza said when asked how McNeil has handled being on the bench. “I want guys who want to be out there contributing. Right now, he’s on the bench, but he’s working. He got in the cage for a long time yesterday during the game. He’s going to continue to work today, so he’ll be ready whenever his name is called.”

It will certainly be worth watching how McNeil is used the rest of this week. Right-hander Trevor Williams was originally scheduled to pitch for Washington on Tuesday, but he landed on the IL and now lefty DJ Herz is getting the start (Mendoza wouldn’t say whether or not McNeil was in the original lineup).

The Nats are also pitching lefty Patrick Corbin on Wednesday, and while the Phillies haven’t officially announced their plans for London, there’s a chance that lefty Ranger Suarez starts on Saturday.

So there is at least a chance that McNeil isn’t back in the starting lineup until Sunday.