JUPITER, Fla. — Ideally, before standing at the foul line at Kauffman Stadium for Opening Day, the Mets would like a dress rehearsal. Even if it’s just once, manager Terry Collins wants to pencil in all eight of his projected starting position players.
The Mets inched closer to that goal Monday as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera returned to Grapefruit League action for the first time since March 10.
In a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals, Cabrera went 0-for-3 and played five innings at shortstop. He emerged from the game with no lingering issues with his bothersome left knee.
“I felt really good today,” he said. “My knee feels strong.”
Cabrera, 30, signed a two-year, $18.5-million deal during the offseason, giving the Mets a new-look middle infield after a trade for second baseman Neil Walker. But Cabrera spent the last three weeks working his way back from a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, which he hurt running the bases.
For only the fifth time this preseason, Cabrera and Walker appeared in the same game, giving the Mets a preview of their reconstructed middle infield. The shortstop downplayed concerns about whether there is enough time for the two to get acclimated.
Said Cabrera: “As I’ve said before, he’s a great second baseman, so I don’t think we have too much to work through.”
Cabrera showed no ill effects from the time off and made a heads-up play in the fourth. With one down and runners on second and third, Cabrera caught Matt Adams as he tried to advance to third on Eric Fryer’s grounder.
“He handled himself fine,” manager Terry Collins said. “He said his legs were a little heavy today, but otherwise I thought he took some good swings and looked pretty comfortable, which was a good sign.”
Collins said Cabrera will accumulate at-bats in minor-league games Tuesday. From there, Cabrera is expected to play the next three exhibition games at short in preparation for Sunday night’s season opener in Kansas City.
Said Cabrera: “All I have to do is do what I’m doing, working every day to get ready for the season.”