PORT ST. LUCIE — Buck Showalter had seen Francisco Lindor play shortstop in workouts over the past week, but on Sunday he saw him in game action for the first time.
“We get spoiled sometimes,” the Mets manager said after a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals at Clover Park. “I was telling Francisco today, he made four plays today that were really hard plays that kind of get snubbed because it’s him.”
But none was more impressive than the one he made in the fifth inning with no outs and runners on first and second. Nolan Arenado cracked a 103.6 mph line drive to Lindor’s right, which he slid over to snag on one hop before smoothly spinning around to throw to second base, starting a 6-4-5 double play.
“I was kidding him, I said, ‘So if we go to third base initially, think we got a triple play?’ ” Showalter said. “He said, ‘No, because Eduardo [Escobar] was off the bag [at third base]. By the time I threw it to second, he was able to get back to third.’
“[I said], ‘OK, I’ll shut up now.’ ”
While Lindor’s first season in Queens was largely disappointing from an offensive standpoint, his defense did not fall off because of it. He registered 20 outs above average, according to baseball savant, which was the second-best mark of any shortstop in the majors.
During the offseason, Showalter spoke to Lindor’s former manager in Cleveland, Terry Francona, who raved about the defense that Showalter saw for himself on Sunday.
It was the second time in as many Grapefruit League games that Showalter came away impressed by his shortstop. On Saturday night, it was Luis Guillorme manning the position and, among other plays, executing a perfect relay from the outfield to throw a runner out at third.
“He’s got great hands,” Showalter said of the versatile infielder. “We don’t have someone that can do what he does. He’s an irregular regular. He’s a guy that’s going to play a big role if we’re successful this year.”
Team defense has been an early point of emphasis for Showalter, who led a fast-paced drill Sunday morning running his infield through various game scenarios.
“You’re rehearsing for a Broadway play,” Showalter said. “Down here, that’s what it is — rehearsal for things that are going to come at you up there.”