"Best-case scenario, hopefully, I get a couple weeks in or a month," Davis said to reporters after an event Tuesday in Freeport. "But I would say the majority odds are I probably wouldn't play this year."
That prognosis was news to manager Terry Collins, who said he was "surprised" by Davis' comments.
"I haven't talked to him about that," Collins said before Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals. "This is the first I've heard . . . I'll have to discuss that with him. He might want to inform me before he springs that on anyone else."
The first baseman suffered a bone bruise and cartilage damage on his ankle during a freak infield collision with David Wright on May 10 after both players settled under a pop-up near the mound.
As recently as Monday, when he spoke at a cancer benefit, Davis seemed relatively positive about the injury.
But Tuesday's comments at Coleman Country Day Camp stood in stark contrast.
"Best scenario is end of the year, September," Davis said of his return during a question-and-answer session with kids. "But probably next year."
After the Mets had been alerted to Davis' comments from earlier in the day, the first baseman emerged from a back room and spoke to reporters about 10 minutes before the clubhouse was to be closed. By then, Davis had heard of his manager's surprised reaction, and tried to downplay his previous statements at the summer camp.
"I'm not throwing in the towel,'' Davis said, smiling. But he added: "I'm not going to tell you I'm going to play this year. If it hurts in three weeks, I'll have the surgery.''
Davis did say Tuesday that he "felt good'' running on the treadmill, and that was probably because of last week's cortisone shot for his ankle. Still, he seems far from healed.
"If I didn't have to ever run again, I'd be fine,'' Davis said.
As he wrapped up the interview, Davis nodded over to Mets PR guru Jay Horwitz, apparently satisfied with the media session. "Just so Terry knows I'm not quitting,'' Davis said.
Davis told reporters at the summer camp that doctors would review the ankle in 21/2 weeks.
"The doctors said these injuries can take 12 weeks [to heal], so it's only been 91/2," he said. "So we have to give it the full 12 just to say we did everything.
"It could turn around. I'm not saying it's not. It's just that I'm not going to tell you that I'm going to be playing, 'cause I've done that every time now. So we'll see. I hope."
But the likelihood of microfracture surgery looms.
"If I'm not feeling a lot better, then we'll have surgery," he said.
If surgery is required, the timetable for a return is murky -- Davis said it varies from person to person -- and the sooner it's done, the better the chance his 2012 season begins on time.
"I need to get this done if we're going to do it, 'cause I don't want it to affect next year," said Davis, who was hitting .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.
Collins suggested that a benefit of Davis returning this year would be to erase any doubts about how his ankle would hold up. But Davis said part of the problem with a late-season return is the time it takes to get game-ready.
"I've been out for so long, I need another spring training," Davis said. "I haven't really done leg workouts in a while. I'd have to have another month of just playing again and practicing, just to be at a level that would help the team."
Davis' frank assessment showed a player who didn't appear to be getting his hopes up. "It's hard to get up for something, because I kept getting up, up, up. 'I'm going to get healthy, I'll be playing,' " he said. "So now I'm just, 'If I don't have surgery, it's a plus.' "
With Laura Albanese
and David Lennon