PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - David Wright said he felt "a little awkward." Daniel Murphy said he felt "sluggish." Ruben Tejada said he felt "good" -- but he didn't look good.
At least the three Mets infielders were on the field Friday. Wright and Murphy made their spring training debuts and Tejada played in his first game since Feb. 28. Wright went 0-for-3 and didn't have any balls hit to him. Murphy and Tejada made errors on routine grounders. Murphy almost got hurt on an aggressive (and for an exhibition game, seemingly unnecessary) slide into second base.
But all three came through unscathed as the Mets tied the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-5, in a ragged, windblown contest at Tradition Field.
The Mets made seven defensive mistakes and were charged with three errors but rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score. Managers Terry Collins and Mike Matheny decided to end it without playing any extra innings.
On Thursday, the Mets welcomed back ailing pitchers Bartolo Colon, Jonathon Niese and Bobby Parnell to the field in an intrasquad game. The appearances Friday by Wright, Murphy and Tejada mean only Ike Davis (calf) and Lucas Duda (hamstring) are on the shelf.
Wright and Murphy had been held back from exhibition play to avoid the kind of nagging muscle pulls that have plagued them in spring training in previous years. Tejada was out with a hamstring strain.
Tejada, who went 0-for-2, did not look particularly sharp in the field. He dived for and wasn't able to snare a grounder to his right in the first inning, booted a routine grounder in the second for an error and couldn't stop a hot shot in the sixth.
Wright and Murphy (1-for-2) don't have to worry about their exhibition performances. If he wants to be the Mets' Opening Day shortstop, Tejada does. But Collins was willing to give all three players a break.
"It's the first time they've been out there," he said. "Those are plays you've seen all those guys make before. But that does go to show you catching the baseball is important."
The Mets also lost three balls in the sun and wind. Curtis Granderson misjudged a long fly to right and Chris Young lost one in the sun in center for a pair of Cardinals extra-base hits in the second inning. Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, through a translator, lamented what he called "unlucky hits."
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud also let a pop fall untouched in foul territory. That wasn't scored an error, but the line drive that clanged off Andrew Brown's glove in left in the sixth was.
Overall, though, it was a good day for the Mets. Most of the regulars will have Saturday off as the Mets travel across the state to Lakeland to play the Tigers with Noah Syndergaard on the hill.
Murphy nearly had Saturday and a lot more days off after tweaking his right ankle on a hard slide into second in an attempt to break up a double play in the fourth inning. Murphy limped off the field but stayed in the game and said he got only "a little scrape."
"Eventually, you've got to crank it up," Murphy said. "When you get out there, you play hard."
Still, the wisdom of risking injury with a takeout slide here is questionable, especially with Collins trying to protect Murphy by delaying his debut -- which even Murphy doesn't know yet was a great idea. But he's hopeful.
"If we have this conversation in a week or so," Murphy said, "I may be kissing him on the neck because I feel just awesome."
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