Brett Baty wins Mets’ third base battle to open season

PORT ST. LUCIE — In a competition with limited alternatives, Brett Baty didn’t have to win the third-base job for the Mets this spring as much as avoid losing it.

On that count he’s succeeded.

The Mets are set to head north Monday night with Baty as their Opening Day starter at third base, giving the 24-year-old former first-round pick an opportunity to show he is the organization’s present and future at the position.

Mets third baseman Brett Baty fields grounders before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals during Spring Training. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Mark Vientos and Joey Wendle are the other primary players in camp who played third base this spring.

The Mets also pursued J.D. Davis as a free-agent option who could provide insurance, but he ultimately signed with Oakland because of the opportunity for guaranteed playing time.

Baty has the highest ceiling as a total package from that group, and the Mets will begin discovering with Thursday’s opener at Citi Field whether he is the answer at third base after his underwhelming rookie season.

“I feel like spring is just trying to get your feet under you and to feel stuff out,” Baty said before hitting a two-run homer in the Mets’ 10-5 exhibition victory over the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. “I have done that this year, and it’s been good.”

Baty owns a respectable .250/.327/.477 slash line with three homers and six RBIs in the Grapefruit League, but is dismissive of the numbers.

Baty will get a chance to improve on an underwhelming rookie season. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

He noted last season he produced strong spring numbers but still was among the players reassigned to minor league camp.

Though Baty was all along the front-runner for the job this spring, he’s treated every day as if he’s fighting for a spot — after a season in which he was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse and struggled offensively and defensively. Last season he slashed .212/.275/.323 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 108 games for the Mets.

“I think we just all come in here, and if you’re not making $300 million like some of the guys in here, then you are all fighting for a job,” Baty said. “I just came in here and tried to be the best player I could be. Just happy to get rolling with the season.”

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Baty impressed team officials in a game this week in which he homered, and stayed on another pitch against a left-hander and delivered with a single to left field.

“He needs to simplify his mechanical adjustments, keeping his hitting sights or aim relentlessly to the middle of the field,” a scout said. “He is very close to making the necessary key adjustments to hit, and then he’ll take off for primer years of his career offensively.”

Vientos, who figures to receive opportunities mostly as the DH, has played third base just six times this spring. The veteran utilityman Wendle will figure into the third-base equation as needed.

Vientos, like Baty, worked out with Francisco Lindor in the offseason with the goal of improving defensively.

Vientos will likely see most of his opportunities as a DH. Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Baty’s spring has also included receiving instruction for the first time from Mike Sarbaugh, who was hired on new manager Carlos Mendoza’s staff to replace Joey Cora as the third base/infield coach.

“I just like how simple [Sarbaugh] keeps it,” Baty said. “[Tuesday] was the first time we used our positioning cards, and they are super simple. He’s like, just go play. Just use your instincts and go play. And I like that a lot.”

Mendoza has seen promising signs from Baty late in camp.

“He’s getting ready on time,” Mendoza said this week. “He’s not only getting good pitches, but putting good swings on it. I feel the bat is coming into the hitting zone a lot quicker, and he’s impacting the baseball.

“He’s having a nice camp. I like the way he is playing, physically, mentally, defensively, his at-bats. He’s doing what he needs to be doing.”

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