Zack Wheeler, who is fighting for a spot on the major league roster, as either a back-of-the-rotation starter or a reliever, looked impressive in a one-inning outing. He threw 15 pitches and struck out two. His fastball was clocked at 97 miles per hour.
After Ozzie Albies led off with a single, Wheeler did his part to remedy the Mets’ past troubles with base runners. He held the ball on the mound longer than normal, disrupting Albies’s timing on a stolen-base attempt. Second baseman Jose Reyes dropped the ball after a well-timed throw from catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled to throw out runners.
That moment, along with aggressive base running by Wilmer Flores and heads-up defense by Ty Kelly in left field, pleased the new manager. Callaway said “doing all the little things” would separate players fighting for a spot on the team.
Scrutinizing every player on the field was new for Callaway, who spent the previous five years as the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians. Earlier in the week, he joked that he wished spring training had 60 games instead of 31, for his own sake.
“The learning is never over,” he said. “This is definitely spring training for me.”
Smith’s slip-up was a learning moment, and a reminder for the rest of the team. But Smith’s admission of fault — and his vow not to repeat it — came only after some minor fumbling by the Mets.
Once Smith was replaced in the lineup by the prospect Peter Alonso, public relations officials said the team simply wanted to get Alonso some at-bats. But when reporters asked Smith why he suddenly was not playing, he said that he did not know why and that he was not injured.
Smith was soon called into Callaway’s office. He then huddled with the public relations officials. Afterward, Smith addressed reporters again, explaining what had happened.
Smith said he missed his alarm because he had stayed up late, lost in his thoughts about starting the first spring training game and the desire to prove himself in camp. (The Mets signed the veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a one-year deal this winter to give Smith more time to develop.)
Smith was not specific about his arrival time, but he said he was “late enough for it to be a problem.” He added: “I shouldn’t be cutting it that close as it is. I’m a professional and it’s my career and my livelihood. I let them down today.”
Third baseman Todd Frazier, another veteran the Mets signed in the off-season, said he considered Smith’s transgression minor.
“He’s a young guy,” Frazier said. “He’s still trying to understand the game. Can’t really have that kind of stuff, though. It’s one of those things where you’d rather be overly early than late. He’s going to learn from it.”