Lagares exits with left oblique injury

March 25th, 2017

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets' Opening Day bench entered a state of flux on Saturday when one of its key members, , left a game against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista due to a left oblique strain. Though Lagares said he did not consider the injury serious, it puts his status for the regular season in doubt with just nine days left until Opening Day.

A former Gold Glover who was locked into the roster as the Mets' defensive-minded fourth outfielder, Lagares did not return to the field after grounding out in the top of the third inning. He tripled and scored earlier in the game against Braves starter R.A. Dickey.

Lagares said he felt a pull not on his groundout, but when he stopped short after hitting a ball just foul down the right-field line earlier in the at-bat.

"It's nothing you can control," Lagares said. "I was just doing my job. I try to run the bases hard."

Asked in particular about Opening Day, Lagares replied: "I think I'm going to be ready. There's not a lot [of discomfort]."

The Mets are already playing without , who strained his right hamstring during the World Baseball Classic. If neither he nor Lagares is ready for Opening Day, the Mets would be forced to proceed with 36-year-old as their only true center fielder on the roster.

An extended absence for Lagares could potentially open the door for , a natural corner outfielder who has played some center this spring, to make the Mets' bench. The team had been considering having Conforto open the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, with Lagares and possibly Ty Kelly on the Opening Day roster. But Lagares' injury changes the equation.

A Gold Glover in 2014, Lagares has battled injuries throughout his career, from a right shoulder issue that undermined his 2015 season to a partially-torn left thumb ligament that cost him roughly two months last summer. Healthy for most of this spring, Lagares profiled as a platoon bat in center field, set to start every time the Mets faced a left-handed pitcher.