NEW YORK -- On the gray days, as the weather chilled in Michael Conforto's native Seattle, the Mets outfielder finds the bat he keeps inside his apartment, and instead of pacing, he'll pick it up. The grip, for a second, both somewhat satisfies his itch and intensifies the next one.
"I can't swing it yet," Conforto said. "But I just want to feel it in my hands. I'm really excited to start swinging again."
Such is the restless routine of the baseball player told by his body to hold up, at least for now. Conforto spent the entire autumn listening, specifically to the alarm sounded by his left shoulder when it violently dislocated during a swing in late August. Three months after surgery to repair a tear in the shoulder's posterior capsule, Conforto has not begun any kind of baseball activities. He hopes that'll change next week after a meeting with his surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, in Los Angeles.
Conforto's shoulder was healthy enough Wednesday to lift, fold and pack jackets donated to the Mets' annual holiday coat drive at Citi Field.
"Once I get the news from the doctor, we'll have a new plan on when I can start swinging and really starting to work out the way I want to," said Conforto. "The narrative of this offseason has been, we're going to feel it out -- definitely not rush anything."
The same sentiment extends to his return to the field. Conforto plans on reporting to Spring Training early, by late January, to continue his rehab in the warm weather. But as for Opening Day, Conforto echoed general manager Sandy Alderson's comments from earlier this week, which expressed a preference to proceed smartly -- even if that means slowly.
"As a competitor and a guy who wants to be out there with my teammates, absolutely, I'd love to be out there," Conforto said. "But I want to make sure I'm playing at the end of the year, when we're playing meaningful baseball. Would it be the worst thing in the world to miss the first few games? I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world, but I definitely want to be out there. We're going to take it slow, take it easy and make sure I'm still the effective player I want to be when I am out there."
For three months, Conforto inched along with that mindset, making sure not to disrupt a shoulder repaired, but still recovering.
"It's been a grind," Conforto said of the routine, which can get tedious: caution and rest, along with physical therapy two hours a day, three to four days per week.
"It's been super monotonous, super boring," he said. "Still is. Three sets of 20 reps of everything. Both shoulders. My shoulders have never been in better shape."
Conforto said the shoulder doesn't give him any pain in everyday life, but he's still in the stage where he needs to avoid reaching across or behind his body. Barring any setbacks, he hopes to be swinging again after the holidays. During a normal year, Conforto said he'd have already been swinging for two weeks.
"I don't want to hurt myself by jumping out there too early," he said. "I want to be ready as early as possible, but I want to be healthy before I do that."