Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor looks on from the dugout during...

Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor looks on from the dugout during an MLB game against Atlanta at Citi Field on July 29. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Francisco Lindor took pivotal steps in his return from an oblique injury, swinging from the left side of the plate for the first time since getting hurt, and also swinging on back-to-back days for the first time, all of which caused Luis Rojas to say he was "encouraged" by the "productive week," despite still not being able to give a timeline for his shortstop's return.

"He looked really good," Rojas said. He "felt good and he was driving the ball . . . He went out today and tested it and he felt better and better. He was on. He was taking some good hacks out there."

He said the next step will be to face live pitching, either real or simulated, as the Mets continue to monitor him from week to week. Lindor was originally expected to return sometime around early to mid-August.

Lindor is also "doing everything else — running, he was running the bases, doing all those things that we’re testing and seeing where he’s at, but also [we want] to work the body," Rojas said. "It’s not just to test the area that was affected, it’s also to work the body. If you’re going to come in and start playing games, you are going to get fatigued from all the other things that you’re going to do besides hitting, so everything that he did today was a big step. I’m very encouraged about how he looked."

Rojas said the shortstop job will continue to be Jonathan Villar's until Lindor’s return. In a pinch, the Mets could use Brandon Drury, who last played short in 2019. Jeff McNeil, who played shortstop in Double-A, and J.D. Davis, who sometimes sniffs the position when he’s playing the shift, are also last-ditch possibilities.

Pitcher Smith to injured list

The Mets got a big blow to their bullpen Saturday after one of their more reliable arms, Drew Smith, was put on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. Smith has pitched in 31 games this year including 41 1/3 innings, with a 2.40 ERA with 16 walks and 41 strikeouts. The Mets recalled two righthanders from Triple-A Syracuse to bolster their pitching depth: Geoff Hartlieb and Jake Reed. They also optioned Albert Almora Jr. in a corresponding move.

Guillorme improves

Luis Guillorme (left hamstring) is still week to week, "But he’s progressing the right way," said Rojas, who added that Guillorme has looked "really good, strong" as he continues to rehab his injury, and that he’s hitting well. The Mets, though, are remaining cautious and are choosing not to move him laterally too much yet.


Conforto finding his stride

Conforto has reached safely in 13 straight games, including a home run Saturday. He is 7-for-16 in his last five games with five runs and three RBIs.


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