WASHINGTON -- Thirteen days after Mets manager Terry Collins named Juan Lagares his "everyday center fielder," it is clear that Lagares is anything but.
"He has not been swinging real good right now," Collins said.
In truth, Lagares has not had much of an opportunity to swing. Over the past five days, Lagares has fewer plate appearances than any Mets outfielder including Abreu, whose job is primarily that of a pinch-hitter. Lagares has hit just .200 with a .567 OPS over that span, but even a single hit would augment those numbers dramatically.
"It's a little hard, but you have to be ready for the opportunity," Lagares said. "You never know what's going to happen. When you play every day, you can make better adjustments. You just have to be ready for it. I just come here ready to play every day."
Collins' primary justification is that he is more concerned with offense than defense right now, and he considers Granderson, Chris Young and Eric Young his best offensive trio. He is also well aware that the Mets are 17-13 in games that Eric Young has started, 2-8 in those he has not.
Young, however, has hit just .235 with a .651 OPS in those starts, striking out in 22 percent of his plate appearances. Chris Young has not fared much better, batting .222 overall with a .675 OPS. But Collins has consistently played both of them over Lagares, all while saying that "Juan is still the center fielder."
"We've got to somehow get his stroke back," the manager said. "He's starting to expand the zone a little bit right now. When we get him back to where he's taking some of those pitches, his defense is something we need, and we need very much. But we're not scoring. So we've got to figure out how to get some runs."
When the Mets were scoring at a slightly elevated clip earlier this season, it was largely thanks to Lagares, who hit .314 with a team-leading seven RBIs over the Mets' first 13 games. But Lagares went on the disabled list on April 15 with a strained right hamstring, and he found the climate quite different upon his return.
"There's nothing I can do," Lagares said. "The only thing I can do is be ready when the opportunity comes, and try to do my job."
Collins did say that Lagares and Chris Young will both be back in the lineup Saturday against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He made no guarantees beyond that.
"I'm not concerned defensively," Collins said. "What I'm more concerned about is we've got to start putting some runs on the board."