PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Despite his late charge to make the Mets' Opening Day roster, outfielder Michael Conforto is likely to begin the year on the disabled list, manager Mickey Callaway said Saturday. There remains a slim chance that Conforto could make the club as a pinch-hitter, but a
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Despite his late charge to make the Mets' Opening Day roster, outfielder Michael Conforto is likely to begin the year on the disabled list, manager Mickey Callaway said Saturday. There remains a slim chance that Conforto could make the club as a pinch-hitter, but a far greater chance that he remains in Florida to receive extra at-bats and outfield reps.
Conforto played center field Saturday in the Mets' 8-7 loss to the Cardinals, manning the position in a big league game for the first time since undergoing left shoulder surgery last September. He called the experience a good one, particularly after diving for a ball in the outfield, and sliding into home plate to score on Adrian Gonzalez's double.
"There wasn't any hesitation there," Conforto said. "I just kind of went out and did it."
In two Grapefruit League games, Conforto is 1-for-6 with two walks, though he has played just five innings in the outfield. While there is obvious value in carrying Conforto as a pinch-hitter on the Opening Day roster, doing so would rob him of the ability to receive consistent playing time in extended spring training.
That is why it's overwhelmingly likely that Phillip Evans makes the team as a super-utility man. Callaway said that Jason Vargas is also likely to begin the season on the DL; combined with the Mets' demotion of Zack Wheeler, that makes it certain that the Mets will carry 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, instead of the other way around.
Still, the composition of the Mets' Opening Day roster will change quickly, with Conforto targeting a much more aggressive return date than his original May 1 goal.
"The more time in New York, the better," Conforto said. "I definitely want to spend as little time as I can down here."
Noah Syndergaard suffered a split nail on his middle finger Saturday, an issue he also dealt with in his final Grapefruit League start earlier this week. But the Mets were unconcerned about that as Syndergaard ramps up for Opening Day.
Syndergaard did so without much other drama in a Minor League game, recording 13 outs in three innings. (The Mets and Nationals employed flexible rules to accommodate the big league players taking part.) Syndergaard struck out four, including the final three batters he faced.
Syndergaard will throw a bullpen session Monday, before starting Opening Day at Citi Field.
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"I'm ready to go," Syndergaard said. "I felt good out there. It's nice to put the finishing touches, if there were any, on what was a pretty productive Spring Training. I'm glad to make it all the way through healthy, feeling really good. I'm ready for the 2018 season."
In 20 Grapefruit League innings, Syndergaard posted a 1.35 ERA with 23 strikeouts. But his personal spring highlight may have come Saturday, when Syndergaard ripped a stand-up triple down the right-field line.
"I was a little gassed after that," Syndergaard said, laughing.
Vargas delayed his scheduled bullpen session 24 hours due to the stomach bug that hospitalized him Friday. Vargas, who is also recovering from right hand surgery, received fluids, and he expects to return to the mound on Sunday.
The likely inclusion of Evans all but finalizes the Mets' Opening Day roster. Among the surprises are Evans and reliever Jacob Rhame, who struck out 10 batters over 10 2/3 Grapefruit League innings.
Steven Matz will start the Mets' Grapefruit League finale Sunday in a 12:10 p.m. ET game against the Marlins, live on MLB.TV. Though the Mets haven't announced it, Matz is lined up to start their third game of the season, April 1 against the Cardinals.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.