CHICAGO — Two of the Mets’ four All-Stars returned to the starting lineup Thursday for the series opener against the Cubs.
Jeff McNeil and his wife, Tatiana, welcomed baby squirrel, Lucas Hayden, into the world at 4:45 am on Wednesday July 13 in California. McNeil spent about 12 hours with his first-born child before hopping on a flight to Chicago on Wednesday evening.
He landed around midnight on Thursday and, after a good night’s sleep, joined his teammates at Wrigley Field in the afternoon, batting fifth and playing left field against the Cubs. Outfielder Ender Inciarte was designated for assignment to make room for McNeil.
Starling Marte also returned to the lineup on Thursday, batting second and playing right field, with his groin discomfort behind him. Marte was able to avoid the injured list, but he was sidelined for four games after he exited in the fourth inning of the Mets’ 5-4 win over the Marlins at Citi Field last Saturday
Both Marte and McNeil were selected on Sunday to their second-career All-Star Game.
Asked to summarize the past few days, McNeil responded: “Perfect. It’s been pretty magical. Making the All-Star Game. Birth of our child. It’s been pretty special.”
McNeil said he was able to stay emotionally invested in the Mets-Braves series earlier this week. He and his wife his had the Mets games playing while they were still waiting for their son to be born. Now, the plan is for Lucas Hayden to join his dad his at the All-Star Game festivities.
“He might get to experience the Home Run Derby and the All-Star break,” McNeil said. “Obviously he’s not going to remember it. But, cool story to tell.”
Buck Showalter caught up with McNeil in the lobby of their hotel on Thursday afternoon before the team left for Wrigley. The Mets manager said McNeil seemed proud and that he’s basking in the glow.
“He’s in a different place of his life,” Showalter said. “Think about waking up today and there’s someone else depending on you to get a couple of hits. I remember the first time I looked over in the crib and went, ‘Oh, I better find something that I can be good or decent at.’ Now there’s somebody else depending on you. Just more pressure, I guess.”
TAI, STRO BRAGGING RIGHTS
Taijuan Walker and his good friend, former Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman, will go toe-to-toe on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field in game two of the Mets-Cubs series. Walker said he went to Stroman’s house on Wednesday night after the Mets flew in from Atlanta. The two pitchers, both fans of Drake, made sure they wouldn’t use the same warm-up song on Friday.
Walker said he’s looking forward to out-pitching Stroman. He added it would’ve been more fun if the universal DH wasn’t implemented so that he could get a hit off Stroman. The former Mets pitcher, who was acquired in July 2019 at the trade deadline, signed with the Cubs on a three-year, $71 million deal as a free agent this past offseason. Stroman has a 4.91 ERA in 10 starts this season.
“You get the bragging rights,” Walker said of facing Stroman. “At the end of the day, we go out there and whoever has the better line gets some bragging rights. We’ll get dinner on Saturday and the winner will pay for the wine.”
Mets first base coach Wayne Kirby will undergo surgery over the All-Star break. Kirby expects to return to the team by the Subway Series (July 26-27) at Citi Field, but he will be limited to the dugout. The Mets have yet to announce a fill-in for Kirby.
Trevor May (right triceps stress reaction) recently completed a bullpen and is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice on Sunday at Port St. Lucie. May remains on track to rejoin the Mets bullpen sometime after the All-Star break.
Pete Alonso will try to out-homer a familiar foe on Monday. Alonso and Ronald Acuna Jr. will face off in round one of the Home Run Derby. MLB released the full bracket on Thursday, which includes sluggers Albert Pujols, Jose Ramirez, Juan Soto, Kyle Schwarber, Corey Seager, Julio Rodriguez, Acuna, and Alonso.