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Conforto’s huge day lifts Mets past Orioles

Four years ago, not even a full season into his big league career, Michael Conforto found himself in the middle of a debate. Mets officials did not believe it was wise to play the young slugger against lefties. An ardent fan base disagreed, eager to see what the 23-year-old Conforto — the first position player New York had taken within the top 10 of a Draft in nearly a quarter-century — could do as an everyday player.

By May 2016, Conforto had become too hot to bench, so the Mets relented and batted him third against an in-his-prime Madison Bumgarner — about the toughest matchup imaginable at that time. Conforto finished 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, descending into a months-long slump that lopped 120 points off his batting average and ended with a Minor League demotion.

He then spent years trying to prove, once again, that he belonged in the lineup every day.

Now, not only is Conforto an option against lefties, he’s one of the best available in New York’s clubhouse. Batting third Wednesday against left-hander John Means, Conforto slugged a two-run homer and narrowly missed another in the Mets’ 9-4 win over the Orioles in Baltimore, finishing 4-for-5 with three extra-base hits and five RBIs.