The story had almost every element imaginable that you could want to it. He is from New York City. In high school, the field he played on had no pitcher’s mound. He went undrafted out of Troy University, and signed with the New York Mets. T.J. Rivera was electric when he rose up to the Mets, and became a cult favorite player amongst Mets fans. For good reason, as he proved that he could hit for average. All was well for Rivera, until he sustained an elbow injury. This injury forced Rivera to be sidelined for the complete 2018 season.
Stepping up in his absence was Jeff McNeil, who used his high contact swing to add a pure hitter to the lineup. Now that Rivera is back, it should be interesting to see how he fits into the lineup. McNeil made the conversation of what to do with Rivera when he returns a lot harder. At bats during spring training will be monumental in deciding who will be jogging out to the field on Opening Day. There is hardly enough room for the infielders that take the field now, so where does Rivera fit into the picture?
There is no easy answer to this question. It is a near lock on the middle infield positions for who will be getting the nod on Opening Day. This however, is a good problem to have. We have heard non-stop this offseason about Brodie Van Wagenen talking about how he has fixed plugs on the team so that there is a better solution if someone goes down with injury. This is perfect for a guy like Rivera. Rivera will have to wait in the wings while a bunch of 30 year-olds are slowly, but surely wearing their bodies down to play a game that they love.
Rivera, of course, is 30 as well. He has not however played in as many games as Robinson Cano or Todd Frazier, so his body has not taken the same damage that theirs has. Rivera has been very lightly discussed heading into this season, which is confusing because could potentially bring a lot of value. Rivera, in his time in the big leagues, has accumulated a batting average of .304 while also driving in 47 career runs. His swing, built to hit line drives, won’t be a stranger to the eyes of Mets fans this season.
There are plenty of claims as to why Rivera should receive a roster spot this season for the Mets. His first two seasons for the team were strong, and there is no reason to believe that he will be unable to do it again. Finding him at-bats will be the biggest struggle surrounding his name this season, as most of the at-bats he was going to be taking are now in possession of McNeil. As a Mets fan, it is exciting to see such infield depth coming from the minors, while also having quality talent on the front line. It will be a spectacular infield this season, and Rivera is going to be a part of it.