ST. LOUIS — Just before he bolted out of the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium Sunday, Jay Bruce grabbed Michael Conforto in a bear hug. Then he gave him some advice.
“This is the one time when you can just have some fun playing baseball,” the veteran outfielder told Conforto, “so go and make sure you have fun.”
Conforto left almost immediately after the Mets’ 6-0 loss to the Cardinals, rushing to Lambert Field airport to catch a 6 p.m. flight to Miami. The 23-year-old went from wondering if he would begin his season in Triple-A Las Vegas to becoming the Mets’ lone All-Star representative. Conforto was chosen by the players’ ballot to be a reserve in Tuesday night’s Midsummer Classic.
“Just a lot of hard work and just taking advantage of my opportunities and make sure I show up every day ready to go,” Conforto said of his season to date. “It’s been a good half so far, and we still got a long way to go.”
Conforto went 1-for-4 Sunday in his first game since June 25. He missed 10 games on the DL with a bruised left wrist. He finished the first half of the season hitting .284 with 14 homers and 41 RBI.
Some feel that Jacob deGrom and Bruce should have been joining Conforto on that flight to Miami, but the Mets realize with their struggles — going 39-47 in the first half — they were not going to get multiple representatives.
And Bruce, who finished the first half with 23 homers and hit .266 with 59 RBI, held no grudge.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t make the All Star Game,” said the three-time All-Star, “but I am really excited for Michael. He earned it, he had a great first half… and I’ll be tuned in.”
SECOND HALF START
Not surprisingly, Terry Collins said that the Mets will try to turn around this year with their best pitcher on the mound, so deGrom will open the series with the Rockies at Citi Field Friday. Their second-most consistent pitcher of the first half when healthy — Steven Matz, who took the loss Sunday — will pitch next Sunday’s series finale.
“We haven’t decided on Saturday yet,” Collins said.
DeGrom goes into the break 9-3 with a 3.65 ERA and arguably should have been named to the National League All-Star Game, despite a shaky first half.
“You take away the 15 earned runs in eight innings, I am OK with my first half, it wasn’t that bad,” deGrom said, referring to back-to-back starts May 31 and June 6 where he got lit up by the Brewers and Rangers.
“I feel like I am back on track and I am ready to get the second half going.”
OF Brandon Nimmo, who was placed on the DL with a partially collapsed lung on Saturday, had tests done before leaving Sunday.
The medical staff told him there was less air leaking into his chest cavity and he should be cleared to fly on Thursday.
Neil Walker left for Port St. Lucie on Saturday night to continue his rehab from a partially torn left hamstring. He has yet to run the bases, but is expected to do that this week and get at-bats in minor league rehab games. Before leaving, he said he expects to return from the DL sometime next week. …
Closer Jeurys Familia, who has been on the disabled list since early May after surgery to remove a blood clot from his shoulder, is set to begin his throwing program this week in Port St. Lucie. The team hopes he can be back by the end of next month. … The Mets said they had no update on starters Noah Syndergaard (torn right lat) and Matt Harvey (stress injury to his scapula bone in his right shoulder).