Mets’ Jeff McNeil respects Carlos Mendoza’s decision, expects to be in lineup Sunday

Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil is not in the lineup for Saturday’s series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies in London. It is the fourth straight time the second baseman has not featured in Carlos Mendoza’s lineup.

But McNeil anticipates that run will come to an end on Sunday.

“I plan on being in there tomorrow and I am going to be ready,” McNeil told reporters in London before Saturday’s game.

Mendoza called it “not an easy situation” for the 32-year-old.

“I think this is the first time he’s healthy but he hasn’t played in four, five games straight,” the manager said. “But he’s a professional, he’ll continue to work, he’ll continue to prepare and he’ll be ready to go when his name is called.

“Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to be there and contribute, right now he’s not getting that opportunity, but he will get that opportunity pretty soon.”

Jose Iglesias, the veteran recently called up from Triple-A Syracuse, has started in McNeil’s place and has been quite successful, getting a hit in all five games over the past week while going 7-for-18 with a double, three RBI and a walk.

Despite sitting for five of the last seven games, McNeil didn't complain when reporters asked him about the situation and Mendoza’s decision to sit him.

"I don't have a choice. He makes the lineup, and I respect that, and I'll be ready to go," he said.

McNeil sat just three times during the Mets' first 56 games of the season and came in to finish out two of those games.

Despite not appearing in a game since June 2, Mendoza believes “Jeff will be fine.”

“I know it’s been six days or so since he’s been in the lineup, but he’s continued to work and, like I said, he’ll get going,” the manager added.

With Philadelphia starting tough left-hander Ranger Suarez – the fourth straight lefty starter the Mets have faced – it could be presumed this is a platoon move, but the skipper said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“It’s kinda a unique situation when you're facing – and this is not a platoon – this is more we’re facing four lefties and Iglesias playing well,” Mendoza said before Saturday’s game. “I’m gonna continue to say Jeff McNeil is our second baseman. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll play tomorrow.

“There’s nothing more to it other than four lefties, Iglesias playing well, I’ll give him another start."

On the year, McNeil has a better average against left-handers (.246 in 65 at-bats to .217 in 138 at-bats) and his OPS is virtually even (.613 to .618). Last season, McNeil was much better off left-handers, batting .294 with a .753 OPS in 177 at-bats compared to .260 and .693 in 408 at-bats against right-handers.

On Monday, Mendoza said that when McNeil is on, “it doesn’t matter who’s on the mound.”

“He’s pretty good against lefties when he’s on,” the manager said earlier this week. “When he’s feeling right, this is not just strictly a righty or lefty match, but it’s just like more getting Jeff back on track.… He’s a good hitter. Right now, he’s working through some things.”