PHILADELPHIA — Injured centerfielder Juan Lagares may rejoin the Mets sooner than had been expected. But according to sources, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Michael Conforto is going to be squeezed off the roster and sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets still want Conforto to play every day, which is why the possibility of a demotion to the minors continues to hover. But team officials seem to be warming to the idea of keeping Conforto around a few weeks longer, even if he’s not seeing regular playing time.
Instead of demoting Conforto once Lagares returns, the Mets could choose to pare one of their extra relief pitchers. That move would keep Conforto in the big leagues while restoring a full five-man bench.
That decision could come as soon as Thursday with Lagares accelerating his timetable for a return from his strained left oblique.
Lagares was scheduled to be off on Tuesday, one day after playing in his first rehab game. But after an encouraging first game, Lagares played for Class A St. Lucie on Tuesday and went 1-4 with a double and scored twice vs. Bradenton in his second rehab game. He played nine innings in centerfield.
“He did not show any signs at all of discomfort,” manager Terry Collins said after Lagares’ first rehab game. “He ran great. All good signs . . . . It’s very possible we see him in Miami.”
Lagares is easily the Mets best defensive centerfielder. His services would be particularly useful at spacious Marlins Park, where the Mets begin a four-game series on Thursday.
Lefthander Steven Matz is still at least a week away from resuming his throwing program. But according to a source, the Long Islander has responded well to rest and a plasma-rich platelet injection, which he received shortly after his shutdown late in spring training.
Matz has said he has a strained flexor tendon in his left elbow, though the Mets have disputed that assertion.
The Mets have a full 40-man roster, meaning they’ll have a tough decision when Jeurys Familia returns from his suspension. But lefthander Josh Edgin has pitched well enough to tighten his grip on a roster spot.
Edgin is out of options and appeared to be on the chopping block in spring training, when he struggled to cope with diminished velocity after Tommy John surgery.
But Edgin, who allowed two runs in one inning on Tuesday night, pitched well at the end of camp and tossed three scoreless innings to start this season, a development that sources said should shield the lefty from losing his spot. The Mets can’t demote Edgin without first exposing him to waivers, where he almost certainly would get claimed.