The Mets' Jose Martinez during a spring training workout on...

The Mets' Jose Martinez during a spring training workout on Feb. 26 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

PHILADELPHIA — The forgotten man of the 2021 Mets, Jose Martinez, began a rehabilitation assignment with Low-A St. Lucie on Sunday, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout and playing three innings in rightfield.

In March, when Martinez tore the meniscus in his left knee, requiring surgery, he looked like maybe the last man on the bench, with a chance he would open the year in the minors. But it turns out the Mets really could have used a player like him.

"We miss the bat," manager Luis Rojas said. "You always miss a bat that can hit lefties like he can. We haven’t had a guy that has been very dominant against lefties."

Martinez has a career .307/.382/.534 slash line against southpaws. The Mets this year have put up .242/.325/.387 marks against them and are 12-23 in games against lefty starters.

Upon his expected return in a few weeks, Martinez might be a big help. Specifically, he could spell Michael Conforto, whose career-worst season includes a .132 average and .162 slugging percentage against lefthanders.

The Mets will take it slow with Martinez, including an every-other-day schedule most of this week. He’ll play rightfield, leftifield and "maybe some first base," Rojas said. Modern metrics rate him as a poor defender, particularly in the outfield.

"It was a significant injury in the knee, and they want to see how it goes," Rojas said. "It will be nice to have that bat soon."