WASHINGTON -- Juan Lagares finally found his way into the Mets' starting lineup Saturday, playing center field after sitting out four of the team's previous five games.
Now it's a matter of producing.
Part of the reason why the Mets benched Lagares in the first place was because they felt he was chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone, allowing other teams to exploit him easily. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens worked with Lagares on his plate discipline this week, and the Mets are eager to see the results.
"We've tried to iron those out," manager Terry Collins said of Lagares' issues. "We think we have. Dave's done a good job of trying to get him fixed. We'll see if it applies and he can take it into the game today."
Lagares entered Saturday's play having swung at 35.9 percent of the pitches thrown to him outside the strike zone, tops on the team. That is not simply a matter of being too aggressive, considering Lagares ranks last on the Mets in pitches swung at inside the strike zone (58.8 percent).
Instead, those numbers suggest he is having trouble reading pitches. Only by improving can Lagares develop into the productive everyday player the Mets hope he can be.
"When he was in the Minor Leagues, one of the things that was said was, we all knew he could play defense," Collins said. "The big thing is, can he hit in the big leagues? When he gets into these funks, it's because he does a couple things, and one of them is chasing bad pitches. At this level, there are scouts in the stands every day. When the report goes out that you don't have to throw somebody strikes, they don't throw him strikes. So we've got to rein him in a little bit, and when he does, he's dangerous, because he's a real good player."