PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright could be ready for at-bats in big-league games by the middle of this week, Mets manager Terry Collins said Saturday, when the third baseman took his first swings since returning from the World Baseball Classic.
"First time I'm hitting, so it's good,'' said Wright, who felt no pain after hitting off a tee in the cage and fielding grounders before batting practice.
The captain still intends to play on Opening Day, a goal that general manager Sandy Alderson believes is within reach. "I'm glad it's a goal,'' Alderson said. "Is it realistic? Yeah, I think it's realistic. I don't think there's any certainty, but it's realistic.''
Nevertheless, Collins emphasized that the club will not rush Wright, who strained an intercostal muscle at the WBC.
"I'm going to be very cautious,'' Collins said. "This guy is a huge piece, and the last thing . . . we need to do is to try to tell him he needs to rush or he needs to hurry. But we'll see where he is by the middle of next week.''
Caution with Murph, too
Second baseman Daniel Murphy (intercostal strain) might play in a minor-league game Sunday, his first since March 15. But Collins said the team will exercise caution with Murphy, who still might begin the year on the DL.
"The last time he played in a minor-league game, he rushed it and he took a huge step backwards,'' Collins said. "I will be the first guy in the morning to make sure that he does not overdo it tomorrow.''
Francisco throws BP
Mets reliever Frank Francisco faced hitters for the first time, throwing 25 pitches in a batting-practice session Saturday afternoon. The righthander still is feeling soreness in his right elbow but estimated that it might be only a few more weeks until he's ready to pitch.
Pitching prospect Rafael Montero threw 42/3 scoreless innings in the Mets' 3-1 win over the Nationals. Lucas Duda hit his fourth homer.