PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Starling Marte is not only growing healthy, but he’s growing comfortable at a new position, too.
Marte, who has been nursing a sore left oblique throughout the first half of Spring Training, manned right field for the Mets during a Minor League game on Wednesday afternoon. Although Marte was under orders not to swing the bat, he felt well enough to lay down a bunt, sprint safely to first base, and go first-to-third on a subsequent hit.
“Thank God, I felt very good there,” Marte said through an interpreter. “I think we’re now closer to returning.”
Marte began hitting off a tee earlier this week and has since graduated to soft tosses and batting practice in an indoor cage. The final step of his progression will be outdoor batting practice, which should happen soon.
All along, Marte has said that he doesn’t consider Opening Day an issue. As of Wednesday, that remained the case.
“We’ll be ready,” he said.
Marte also indicated that his positioning in the Minor League game was telling. While manager Buck Showalter has been coy about the Mets’ outfield alignment, Marte said Wednesday that he expects to play a lot of right field during the regular season. That means the club’s default alignment will likely be Mark Canha in left, Brandon Nimmo in center and Marte in right, with plenty of room for flexibility; all three starting outfielders can play all three positions.
Even so, right field will be a learning experience for Marte, who has played more than 4,000 innings in both left and center throughout his career, but none in right. Marte does profile well at the position, considering he boasts the strongest arm of the Mets’ three outfielders.
“It felt good,” Marte said of his experience in right field on Wednesday. “It was the first time, but I felt good out there.”