The irony of entering spring training in the best shape of his career only to pull a quad that has sidelined him for virtually the entire Grapefruit League slate isn't lost on Dominic Smith.
After being scratched from the Mets' spring training opener for being late, the 22-year-old was back in the lineup on Feb. 24, only to pull up lame sprinting from home to first on what he didn't realize was a ground-rule double.
"This is the most athletic I have felt my whole career," Smith said. "I joked around with some guys. I was like, 'Man, last year I probably wouldn't have pulled my quad because I wouldn't have been running so fast.' It's something you can't control and let it bring your spirit down."
Smith entered camp coming off a strong season with Triple-A Las Vegas where he hit .330/.386/.519 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs in 114 games. He was promoted to the Majors on Aug. 11, and although he put together .198/.262/.395 slash line, he did go deep nine times and drive in 26 runs in 49 games.
Smith, who was challenged early in the offseason by GM Sandy Alderson, altered his diet and routine during the winter and entered camp 30 pounds lighter. The signing of Adrian Gonzalez in January provided him with competition, but his quad injury derailed any chance of winning the Mets' first base job. Gonzalez is batting just .191 with a home run, four RBIs and 12 strikeouts in 16 Grapefruit League games.
Another disappointed Met is new manager Mickey Callaway, who wanted to see what his young prospect was all about.
"I wanted to see [Smith]," Callaway said. "That would have been huge for us to see who Dom Smith is, and it's a shame we didn't get to. We were excited about what he has to offer at some point."
Despite his disappointment, Smith won't let the temporary setback get him down.
"Eventually, when I am a five-, six-time All-Star, I will probably laugh about it," Smith said. "As of now I see it as an unfortunate situation and it sucks, just like, 'Man, if it's not one thing it's another.' As long as you learn from it and get better from it and mature from it, that is all they ask for and that is all I can do."