New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez during a spring training...

New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez during a spring training workout on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

JUPITER, Fla. — Francisco Alvarez’s mysterious absence from behind the plate is ending soon.

The Mets’ top prospect will be available to catch in exhibition games beginning Friday, according to manager Buck Showalter. They had been holding him back following offseason ankle surgery.

“Everything else is fine,” Showalter said. “They said it would be a good idea to wait, so we will.”

Through six Grapefruit League games, Alvarez has started at DH twice (and entered off the bench at DH in another game). Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido, the major-league catching tandem, largely have alternated starts at catcher.

Alvarez, 21, needed an operation to address cartilage damage in his right ankle in October. He has worked with catching coach Glenn Sherlock and others on defensive drills in camp. Always advanced as a hitter, Alvarez is likely to open the season in the minors because he is a question mark as a backstop.

Mets decision-makers have said repeatedly that he needs to be an adequate catcher — and be able to catch at least several times per week — for them to carry him on the major-league roster.

He’ll resume getting game experience again imminently.

“We’re just being cautious,” Showalter said. “Nothing has changed.”

Ridings milestone

Stephen Ridings threw off of a mound Wednesday for the first time in camp, short of a full-fledged bullpen session but nonetheless a noteworthy step forward about which he was enthused. He tossed about 10 pitches.

The Mets are being uber-cautious with Ridings, a righthanded reliever from Commack, because of his lengthy injury history. He suffered a torn lat at the end of last season just as he was recovering from a back/shoulder/neck problem.

“That’s the one that, if somehow we can get him healthy, he’s got a chance to help us,” Showalter said, publicly praising Ridings unsolicited for the second time in as many weeks.

He said the Mets see in Ridings “big stuff” and the “same things that the Yankees tried to unlock.” Ridings was in the Yankees’ system the past two years, appearing in five major-league games.

“We’re playing this very slow, really trying to build the strength — not just in the shoulder, but throughout his body, to make him as bulletproof as possible,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said.

Fan of the day

There was a Mets fan behind their dugout Wednesday who relentlessly and loudly cheered them on all afternoon, often the only voice emerging from the light crowd at the Marlins’ spring-training stadium. He was audible from anywhere in the stands.

Showalter gave him a lineup card in the sixth inning.

"He deserved it," he said. “To bring that energy level for nine innings and be that big a Mets fan, he should come out of here with something.”

Extra bases

In an 8-4 exhibition win over Miami, Ronny Mauricio launched his third home run in seven Grapefruit League at-bats. Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso also went deep . . . Showalter praised the way Brett Baty bounced back from a throwing error by making a smooth play — running in on a slow roller toward third base, fielding and firing on the run — later in the inning. “That’s what you look for,” he said. “Things aren’t going to be perfect, but how do you come back from it? . . . He’s going to be fine at third base.” . . . Tylor Megill was pleased after mixing in several curveballs, a focal point of his efforts in camp, and allowed one run in two innings in his exhibition debut . . . Darin Ruf (arthritis in his right wrist) won’t get into a game until Tuesday at the earliest, Showalter said.

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