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Valuable bench player Jonathan Villar not likely to start season on IL

The Mets' Jonathan Villar runs past third base

The Mets' Jonathan Villar runs past third base after hitting a home run in the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Marlins at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in March 7. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Utilityman Jonathan Villar has been out with a groin issue, but the Mets are "not really" concerned that he will have to start the season on the injured list, manager Luis Rojas said Saturday.

During infield drills one recent morning, Villar "felt a little something" in his upper inner leg, according to Rojas.

Although the Mets consider him day-to-day, he has played just once in the past nine days. The Mets hope he can play Monday, their last exhibition game before Opening Day on Thursday, but that is not a guarantee.

"We feel good that he might start the season with us," Rojas said. "He’s responding really well to the day-to-day treatment, and this late in camp when you have this type of soreness or whatever it is in the groin, you want to be cautious. One of the things we wanted to do here in this camp is leave ready but at the same time we want to leave healthy."

The next test for Villar will be to face live pitching, hopefully Sunday, Rojas said. Marcus Stroman will be among those throwing live batting practice. Villar then might start Monday against the Cardinals in the Grapefruit League finale.

The Mets signed Villar last month with plans to use him off the bench at each infield position and perhaps the outfield. He also is probably their top stolen-base threat among the backups, a key element as extra innings will begin with a runner on second base again this year.

Villar has spent much of camp getting reacclimated to third base, where he hasn’t played in a major-league game since 2016 and where the Mets have a degree of uncertainty due to J.D. Davis’ defensive problems.

Dommie Baseball

Dominic Smith homered twice — once in a back-to-back sequence with Pete Alonso — in the Mets’ 8-3 exhibition win against the Astros.

"That’s why we’re including him in the lineup and having him learn the leftfield position at this point," Rojas said. "It’s the kind of day we want out of him for sure."

Smith sports a .237 spring-training average, but six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases.

Extra bases

Francisco Lindor went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a walk against Houston . . . Drew Smith (sore right shoulder) is likely to begin the year on the IL. He has been playing catch but hasn’t thrown off a mound recently, Rojas said . . . Arodys Vizcaino (sore right elbow) might pitch Sunday or Monday. He threw live BP on Thursday . . . Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hall of Famer Mike Piazza watched the Mets’ game together in a suite at Clover Park.

New York Sports