Daniel Murphy's status for season opener shaky

Mets infielder Daniel Murphy gets ready to take

Mets infielder Daniel Murphy gets ready to take batting practice as pitchers and catchers reported Monday for the first day of spring training at Tradition Field. (Feb. 11, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When pressed Wednesday for a status check on injured infielders David Wright and Daniel Murphy, Mets manager Terry Collins didn't draw any distinctions, saying that neither was "close to being on the field.'' But when it came to forecasting their chances of playing on Opening Day, Collins noted one key difference.

"I'm certainly counting on having David for the season [opener],'' Collins said. "Dan, I'm not sure yet.''

Until April 1 arrives, uncertainty surrounds the Mets' infield, which was considered a strength at the start of camp. But the infielders have not been immune to the rash of injuries that also depleted the starting rotation, leaving Collins to scramble for possible solutions.

"Right now, I'm worried about making sure that the guys who play those positions are ready to go,'' Collins said.

Murphy faces a longer road back from his strained rib-cage muscle. Aside from an appearance in a minor league game last week, in which he was not allowed to bat, the second baseman has missed all of spring training.

"Yeah, it's difficult to be patient,'' said Murphy, who still is receiving treatment. "But that's where growth comes from.''

Wright has spent the last five days receiving treatment for the strained muscle in his rib cage. He contends he still has a chance of manning third base for the opener.

"I want to be ready for Opening Day, but also I don't want to cost myself a month or two during the season because I'm rushing back for Opening Day,'' Wright said. "But Opening Day is my goal.''

Unlike Murphy, Wright has seen game action, both in spring training and while starring for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Even though he suffered his injury last week, Wright's return may depend mostly on whether his pain subsides.

"For Murphy, obviously he needs the at-bats, he needs swings because he hasn't done that,'' Wright said. "I've already done that. So for me, it's just about getting to where the pain's not there anymore. I don't think I need that much time after the pain is gone to kind of get ready as far as baseball stuff goes because I played my last game about a week ago. so it's not that big of a deal.''

But until Wright returns, Collins must sort through possible replacements, a task made more complicated by yet another injury. Utilityman Justin Turner would fit as a fill-in at third or second base, but he has been sidelined since Saturday with a sprained right ankle. Turner was cleared for baseball activities Wednesday and said he could play as soon as Thursday, though Collins said a return Friday may be more realistic.

Jordany Valdespin also could fill in for Murphy at second base, especially if Turner winds up stepping in for Wright at third. Collins said Valdespin, who entered Wednesday hitting .341, will see more time at second base but also may continue to play in the outfield.

"Right now, the way he's played down here, you've got to figure out a way to get his bat in the lineup,'' Collins said. "If David's ready and Turner's playing second, you've got to figure out where else you can play him.''

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