PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets hoped that the revamped middle infield of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker would spend the spring learning how to work together.
But Cabrera’s knee injury means that he and Walker will have to learn on the fly, mostly during the regular season.
“If it was a first or second-year guy, that might be a reason for some concern,” said Walker, the veteran second baseman acquired in a trade with the Pirates. “But that’s not the case. I’ve seen no reason to think there’s some massive thing to work on.”
Cabrera, the veteran shortstop, signed a two-year deal worth $18.5 million. But he has not played since March 10, when he strained a tendon in his left knee.
Aside from some work on the back fields during the early days in camp, Cabrera and Walker have been limited to just parts of four Grapefruit League games together.
“I don’t think that we need that many times together to be ready,” Cabrera said.
Initially, the Mets expected Cabrera to be shut down for two weeks. But he began baseball activities ahead of schedule, leaving him on track to be ready for Opening Day on April 3. But time may be running out to get significant game action, with only nine games left on the exhibition slate.
On Thursday, Cabrera took batting practice on the field, then got six at-bats during a minor-league intrasquad game on the back fields. He is expected to some baserunning on Friday and serve as a designated hitter in a minor-league game.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Cabrera will return to Grapefruit League action on Sunday, though it’s unclear when he will play shortstop in a game.
“My knee feels pretty good,” Cabrera said. “We’ll figure it out from there.”
Meanwhile, Walker has looked comfortable at second base, quickly establishing himself as a defensive improvement over Daniel Murphy. While both have similar range, Walker has far more experience at second than Murphy, who converted to the position.
Walker made a smooth play to his left in the Mets’ split-squad game against the Astros on Thursday, sliding to corral the ball before making a snap throw to second to start a double play.
But how Walker looks paired with Cabrera remains a mostly unanswered question for the Mets. While Collins insists he’s not concerned, he acknowledged that he wants to find ways for the tandem to get acclimated.
“We will certainly push it a little bit,” Collins said. “We’ll get some extra work for him [Cabrera] and push the process along a little bit.”