PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jay Bruce’s flirtation with first base has taken a slight toll on his body. The Mets outfielder was scratched from Sunday’s game against the Marlins with stiffness in his right hip. “It’s not anything alarming,” he said.
With the Mets traveling to Lakeland for a game against the Tigers on Monday followed by a scheduled team off day on Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said the earliest Bruce could return is Wednesday.
Bruce believes the issue stems from taking ground balls at first, hardly a high-impact task but one that tests different muscles than tracking down fly balls in the outfield would. He already has seen game action at first base, with the Mets hoping to give themselves another option if Lucas Duda battles injuries, as he did last season.
His battle with paperwork now ended, reliever Fernando Salas returned to Mets camp Sunday and was cleared to pitch in Grapefruit League games after acquiring what proved to be an elusive work visa.
Salas picked up the visa after wrapping up his tenure with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. With 10 exhibition games left, the projected setup man to begin the season needs to make up for lost time. Without a work visa, Salas could not pitch in Grapefruit League games earlier in camp. His work was limited to simulated games.
With Mexico in the WBC, he pitched twice for a total of one inning, but the righthander believes he has time to catch up. “Now I feel good,” he said. “The most important thing is that I feel healthy. I worked all offseason and this spring training. Just put me in the game and it’s little things to get ready for the season.”
Collins hopes to get Salas into Monday’s game.
Although Jacob deGrom allowed four runs in 5 1⁄3 innings in the Mets’ 7-5 loss to the Marlins, he was pleased with the outing, in which he topped out at 95 mph and looked on track to begin the season healthy. “It’s gone pretty smooth,” deGrom said of spring training. “I’ve felt healthy the whole time. As I’ve said, that’s the main goal.” . . . Matt Harvey starts Monday against the Tigers. His velocity has been stuck in the low 90s after he had season-ending surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, but Collins said his focus is on seeing improved location. “Make pitches. I don’t care how hard they are,” Collins said . . . Brandon Nimmo (hamstring) might not get into games until later this week . . . With the Dominican Republic eliminated from the WBC on Saturday night, the Mets expect Jose Reyes, Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia back in camp Wednesday. Major League Baseball has yet to announce Familia’s punishment for violating the league’s policy on domestic violence. He is expected to be suspended to start the season.