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Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto moving toward returns to Mets

Jeff McNeil #6 of the Mets runs out

Jeff McNeil #6 of the Mets runs out his third inning single against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

BALTIMORE — The hamstrung Mets are closer to being less so.

Second baseman Jeff McNeil, out the past three weeks with a strained left hamstring, is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Syracuse this weekend, manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday.

Rightfielder Michael Conforto, who suffered a right hamstring strain on the same day, said he hopes to be not too far behind McNeil, if he can pass his remaining tests when the Mets return to New York this weekend.

At least McNeil and perhaps Conforto seem to be ahead of schedule. Acting general manager Zack Scott said previously the Mets expected them back in late June/early July.

 

"The rehab is enough to really make you want to get back out on the field," Conforto said on the field after taking batting practice. "Rehab is terrible."

Back in New York, McNeil has progressed without issue, Rojas said. That includes swinging and fielding and, most notably when it comes to leg injuries, running.

"He was bragging about it before he got on the road trip, telling me how fast he was going," Rojas said. "I still wanted him to take it easy, focus on today and get through today, keep getting stronger. I’m glad he’s at a good point right now and then we pray that he finishes like that in his rehab and his treatment and he can start that rehab assignment this weekend like we want."

Conforto, meanwhile, has been on this long road trip through Phoenix, San Diego and Baltimore.

Rojas mentioned that Conforto’s rehab assignment is "maybe a couple of weeks away." Conforto talked like it was closer than that.

"Knock on wood," Conforto said, knocking on his head, "I haven’t had any bad days. So trying to keep it that way."

He added that he no longer feels pain or tightness when doing any exercise. He is at his "normal volume of swinging," and running remains a work in progress.

"That is always going to be the limiting factor in the hamstring stuff," he said.

The keys: Running the bases and passing strength tests. He hopes to do both around when the Mets begin a homestand Friday.

"There’s no way I’m not stronger than I was before with all the stuff we’ve been doing with the hamstrings and lower body," Conforto said.

Looking forward to re-joining the active roster, Conforto, the only remaining position player from the Mets’ 2015 World Series run, said the 2021 Mets "really is the most fun group I’ve been around."

"Even if I'm not out there on the field, it's been good to be a part of it in the clubhouse," he said. "[Sitting out] was frustrating for a while. But you kind of just switch your focus to the rehab. I'm past the frustration of being out. I'm just focused on getting back. That’s in the past now. All I'm focused on is getting back, being healthy, and jumping in on this crazy group of guys that’s just doing everything they can to win games. It's been really fun for me to watch. Everybody who steps in plays a part. It's been a lot of fun."

In Conforto’s absence, Billy McKinney has held it down in rightfield. The Mets plucked him off the waiver-wire scrap heap last month, and he began the week with a .242 average, .324 OBP and .576 slugging percentage (and strong defense) through 10 games with the Mets.

Of his eight hits in that stretch, six went for extra bases.

"He’s been awesome," Rojas said. "We’ve used him in different parts of the lineup and he’s been very valuable."

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