Mets infielder Jeff McNeil during a spring training workout on Feb....

Mets infielder Jeff McNeil during a spring training workout on Feb. 19 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

JUPITER, Fla. — Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil is “pretty sure” he will be ready for Opening Day on March 28 after resuming hitting activities Saturday.

His progress sounds boring but nonetheless was noteworthy: dry swings followed by hitting a baseball off a tee 30 times at not-quite-full strength.

It was McNeil’s first time swinging a bat in more than a week. He had been sidelined by what he described as “tightness” in his left biceps.

Manager Carlos Mendoza said McNeil won’t get into a game for at least another week, but the Mets don’t seem concerned about his preparedness.

“No problems at all. A very positive sign today,” McNeil said in his first public comments since the physical setback. “I’m not worried about getting enough ABs to get ready.”

Mendoza said: “I talked to him afterward and he said he felt fine .  .  . The good thing about Jeff is this is a guy who doesn’t take too many swings. This is a guy who knows how to get ready. He’s a natural hitter.”

McNeil added that the Mets’ medical staff assured him that this biceps problem is not related to the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. He called it a “somewhat completely different thing” and reiterated that his elbow has not hurt in months.

While he was prohibited from hitting, McNeil did just about everything else, including playing in a minor-league game Friday. He played five innings at second base and ran the bases.

When he is ready, he plans to return to that practice-field environment to rack up the at-bats he needs.

“I’m basically getting my game reps on the back fields. Just need to get the swing feeling good,” McNeil said. “Normally when the big-leaguers go back there, it’s to steal at-bats from the minor-leaguers. I think one of the minor-leaguers was taking my at-bats for me, so good for him.”

A new Man-aea

Sean Manaea’s line in a 9-3 win over the Cardinals was normal: four innings, two hits, no runs. He struck out five and walked three (including Paul Goldschmidt twice).

But his feeling on the mound? And his appearance? That was different.

This was Manaea’s first game since cutting his hair for the first time in nearly four years. The curly mop that reached his shoulders and bounced wildly with each pitch is gone. His drastically different hairdo doesn’t even flow out of his hat.

“New haircut, new me,” Manaea cracked. “So much easier. I don’t have hair in my eyes. A little cooler. Overall, a lot easier.”

Sign of spring

On his way off the field upon exiting the game, Ji Man Choi (who went 3-for-3 with a double) was going to ignore an autograph-seeker but laughed and obliged when he saw that the guy — in the bleachers — was lowering a ball down on a string.

Then the fan asked if he could have Choi’s batting gloves.

“A hundred bucks,” Choi said. “Plus tax.”

Extra bases

Lefthander Nate Lavender, demoted to minor-league camp Friday but still eligible to pitch in Grapefruit League exhibitions, struck out the side in a perfect sixth inning. Goldschmidt whiffed on a slider over the heart of the plate and Nolan Arenado watched a sinker for strike three. Lavender has struck out seven of nine batters faced .  .  . Cardinals starter and Stony Brook native Steven Matz allowed four runs in two frames. Francisco Lindor homered off him in a three-run opening inning .  .  . Brett Baty and Mark Vientos both went 2-for-4, the first multihit game for both .  .  . Former Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader received a round of applause from and waved to the St. Louis-loving crowd before his first at-bat.


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