Leftfielder Jason Bay, gradually recovering from his second concussion in less than two years, expressed confidence he can be part of the Mets' postseason push in the second half of the season. "It would be optimistic to say right after the All-Star break if everything goes swimmingly," he said Tuesday of a possible timetable for his return. "But I haven't gotten that far down the road."
The second-place Mets resume play following the break with a six-game trip. They will have three games against the Braves and three versus the NL East-leading Nationals.
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Bay, 33, is expected to report to the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., within the next few days to continue his rehabilitation before participating in minor-league games.
"I know Jason is chomping at the bit," manager Terry Collins said. "Hopefully, by the end of the week, he's in Florida."
Although Bay has been an enormous disappointment since signing a four-year contract worth $66 million before the 2010 season, his track record suggests he might bring needed power to a scrappy team that often must string together singles to score.
He established career highs with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs with the Boston Red Sox in 2009, but declined precipitously after that. He draws encouragement from the Mets' surprisingly strong first half.
"It definitely makes it a lot more enticing to get back and try to be a part of it," he said.
Bay missed the final two months of the 2010 season with a concussion after slamming into the leftfield wall while making a catch at Dodger Stadium. He hit a career-low .245 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs in 123 games last year and struck out 109 times in 444 at-bats.
His hopes for a rousing comeback were set back when a broken rib forced him onto the disabled list from April 24-June 6. He rejoined the lineup for seven games before his head struck the leftfield wall at Citi Field on June 15 during a sliding attempt to catch a drive off the bat of the Reds' Jay Bruce that resulted in an inside-the-park home run.
"I kind of felt like I was just getting my feet under me when I went down again," he said.
His baseball-related exercises since the concussion had been limited to running and throwing before Tuesday, when he was allowed to hit balls off a tee for the first time. With an eye toward his long-term health, the process tends to be painstaking. "There is a checklist of things [to complete]," he said. "You can't just pop up and play baseball."
Although Bay expressed the desire to do more than the Mets are allowing, even his manager cannot help him with that.
"That is run by the medical department," Collins said. "They are the ones who are on top of how bad concussions can be."