Vientos a huge hit immediately for Mets in return from surprise demotion to minors

NEW YORK (AP) — Maybe the New York Mets made a mistake when they sent Mark Vientos to the minors.

After waiting a month for another big league opportunity, the 24-year-old infielder is quickly making the most of it.

Vientos socked a two-run homer in the 11th inning on his second day in the majors this season to give the Mets a 4-2 comeback victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

“I was sitting for that one pitch the whole at-bat,” he said. “I finally got it and I put a good swing on it.”

Vientos also had a pinch-hit single in the ninth and is 3 for 4 in two games since getting called up from Triple-A Syracuse — all off the bench.

“We know the power to all fields, especially against lefties,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “He was ready to go. So, credit to him, and it’s good to see it.”

Mendoza said he was pretty sure Vientos will be in the starting lineup Monday night against the Chicago Cubs. Mets outfielder Starling Marte is expected back from the bereavement list on Tuesday, though, so Vientos’ future remains uncertain.

Asked whether the youngster might stick around longer, Mendoza said: “We’ll see.”

“To be honest with you, I’m happy where I’m at right now,” Vientos said. “I’m not really thinking about the past or the future. I’m living in the present right now and I’m happy with this moment, celebrating with my team.”

Vientos batted .211 with nine homers, 22 RBIs and a .620 OPS in 233 plate appearances for the Mets last season. Throughout spring training this year, he appeared in line for regular big league at-bats at designated hitter and perhaps third base before New York signed veteran slugger J.D. Martinez to a $12 million, one-year contract on March 23.

Vientos was disappointed by his surprise demotion to the minors two days later, as the Mets put light-hitting backup Zack Short on the opening-day roster because he plays all over the infield, while Vientos mainly mans the corners.

Short was designated for assignment Friday when Martinez was activated.

Vientos didn't sulk down at Syracuse, however. He was hitting .302 with five homers, 22 RBIs and a .923 OPS in 23 games at Triple-A before getting recalled Saturday when Marte went on the bereavement list.

“He’s performing. He earned it,” Mendoza said then. “My message to him is, be ready for your opportunity.”

He certainly has been.

New York was 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position and down to its last strike Sunday when Harrison Bader singled home the tying run in the 11th inning.

Vientos then fouled off a couple of two-strike pitches before driving a 1-2 sinker from Matthew Liberatore just beyond the glove of a leaping Michael Siani at the center-field fence. A fired-up Vientos pumped his arms and tossed aside his helmet as he approached home plate, where he was swarmed by jubilant teammates.

It was the first walk-off RBI in the big leagues for Vientos, a second-round draft pick in 2017 out of American Heritage High School in Florida. He made his Mets debut in 2022 and appeared in 65 games for them last year.

“I feel like it’s almost a déjà vu moment. I feel like I’ve lived that moment over and over in my head,” Vientos said. “So it was just like, let it go, let all the energy out. Just a great feeling.”