LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Continuing his rapid improvement from a left oblique strain, Mets center fielder Juan Lagares said Wednesday that he expects he'll be ready for Opening Day. That is a reversal from what the team initially feared when Lagares suffered the injury.
"Right now," Lagares said late Wednesday morning, "I feel good."
Lagares ran at full-speed at the Mets' complex, and expects to swing a bat Thursday for the first time since he first felt pain. If he feels up to it, Lagares could even appear in the Mets' intrasquad game against the Las Vegas 51s, according to manager Terry Collins.
At the least, Lagares plans to fly north with the Mets, perhaps playing in Friday's exhibition against Army at Citi Field. The Mets do not have to finalize their Opening Day roster until later that weekend.
If Lagares does make the Mets' Opening Day roster, it will complicate their decision regarding Michael Conforto. As the club's other healthy backup capable of playing center field, Conforto saw his roster chances increase dramatically when Lagares strained his oblique. But if Lagares recovers in time for Opening Day, there is a chance the Mets will option Conforto to Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets came into camp hoping Lagares would play a key role for them, starting in center against left-handed pitchers and serving as a late-inning defensive replacement for Curtis Granderson in many other games. He hit .239 with three home runs in 79 contests last season, missing significant time due to a torn left thumb ligament.