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How Mets’ Brett Baty’s work ethic has helped him improve defensively

Feb 20, 2023; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets third baseman Brett Baty (22) during spring training workouts.

Feb 20, 2023; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets third baseman Brett Baty (22) during spring training workouts. / Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

PORT ST. LUCIE — As of Friday afternoon Brett Baty hadn’t heard the compliment that Buck Showalter had paid him a couple of days earlier, when the manager said that watching the defensive improvement of both Baty and Mark Vientos was one of the highlights of spring training for him.

At his locker Baty’s eyes lit up when I told him, and understandably so. The young third baseman has been on a mission to get better with the glove, from being tutored during winter workouts in Texas by Troy Tulowitzki to going to the field early every day here with Vientos to take ground balls and do drills with various coaches.

“We’re out there grinding every day,” Baty said with a smile. “I’m glad somebody’s noticing.”

Not that the 23-year old Baty necessarily needed the positive reinforcement. Doing the work has always been part of his profile, going back to growing up in Austin, Texas as the son of a high school basketball coach who believed there was no substitute for putting in long hours.

“He’s a big believer that hard work beats talent,” Baty said of his father, Clint. “So I definitely like working hard.”

The work is paying off, it seems. A natural with the bat, Baty is unquestionably big-league ready offensively, but there were questions about his defense after his brief stint with the Mets last season that he seems to be answering nicely this spring.

He has made a handful of very good plays with the glove, ranging well to both his left and right while showing off a strong arm in the process.

So while Showalter included Vientos in his praise this week, it’s more significant as it applies to Baty. He’s swung the bat well enough, hitting .375 in Grapefruit League games so far, to put pressure on the Mets to keep him when the season starts.

All along the plan was to have Eduardo Escobar start the season as the everyday third baseman to see if he could pick up where he left off last season, when a late surge salvaged what had been a disappointing season.

Escobar hit .321 with eight home runs in September/October but even with his hot month he hit only .240 for the season, and only .231 against righthanded pitching with a .681 OPS.

That’s significant because Baty is a left-handed hitter who could platoon with Escobar at third base and perhaps make the Mets stronger, especially against…

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