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Breaking News Pete Alonso is Out, discovering

PORT ST. LUCIE — It might be incidental that Pete Alonso’s subpar (for him) 2023 season coincided with a disastrous year from Mets No. 5 hitters.

The fifth hitters in the lineup — most used in that slot were Daniel Vogelbach, Jeff McNeil and Brett Baty — posted a cumulative .652 OPS that was the third-worst among No. 5 hitters in baseball

But it is at least possible that the Mets’ slugging first baseman, who still supplied power but hit just .217, saw worse pitches because opposing pitchers were not fearful about the hitter in the on-deck circle.

The concept of lineup protection — of the next hitter’s ability affecting the current at-bat — is a disputed one, with many particularly in the analytic community doubting its effect.

It is “100 percent” real, said Adam Ottavino, who is entering his 14th season. “If a guy’s a great player, and you don’t have to face him because you can walk him, sometimes that’s a good outcome too.”

Which would mean finding a bat who can force pitchers to pitch to Alonso should be a critical item on the Mets’ to-do list.

For Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Yankees at Clover Park, the Mets employed what resembled a regular-season lineup (the only exception being the healing Jeff McNeil did not play).

Batting fifth was Francisco Álvarez, who followed up a leadoff double from Alonso in the second inning with a ground out to third.

It is spring training and meaningless, but Alonso was left stranded in the frame.

“Álvarez is definitely a consideration [for No. 5],” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “But there’s a lot of different ways we can go.”

Álvarez’s first season was an unmitigated success for a catcher who impressed defensively, smacked 25 home runs and only turned 22 in November.

But he batted .209 and was as streaky as anyone in baseball.

Can the Mets rely on a No. 5 hitter with a sky-high upside — but with uncertainty that upside will be tapped into so early in his career?

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