TORONTO — Noah Syndergaard and Jason Vargas took an important step forward Tuesday, throwing a simulated game in Port St. Lucie.
Syndergaard (strained right index finger) tossed 50 pitches in three innings. Vargas (strained right calf) threw 65 in four.
“Both came out of it really good,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
Neither pitcher will be ready, however, when the Mets next need a fifth starter, Monday’s doubleheader against the Phillies. Callaway didn’t rule out righthander Seth Lugo making a spot start, but stressed his preference to keep Lugo in the bullpen.
Syndergaard’s next step could be a minor-league rehab start on regular rest. Vargas’ path back is a bit more complicated, as he hasn’t yet tested his calf by running or fielding his position.
Yoenis Cespedes and his strained right hip flexor have also made progress this week, beginning a running progression Monday. Callaway said Cespedes ran at about 75-percent effort.
“All went really well,” Callaway said.
It was Cespedes’ first time running since shutting down his rehab assignment June 9. He has been out since May 16, and he had been waiting until the soreness was completely gone from his hip before stepping up his physical activity.
Mesoraco hit in head twice
Catcher Devin Mesoraco left the Mets’ loss to the Blue Jays in the seventh after getting hit in the head twice while catching, once by a pitch (deflected by a Blue Jay’s arm) and once by a backswing.
Callaway said Mesoraco passed a concussion test but would be monitored overnight.
“He just got beat up pretty bad tonight,” Callaway said. “He said he felt fine [after getting hit by the pitch], then he came in after getting hit again by the bat and he wasn’t feeling too good in between innings, so we had to get him out of there.”
Jose Bautista was the man of the hour — and series — at Rogers Centre. He started in rightfield in his first game here as a visiting player since 2004, having played for Toronto from 2008-17. The Blue Jays honored him with a tribute video before first pitch, and he received standing ovations before the game and before his first at-bat.
Bautista went 1-for-2 with three walks and made an error in rightfield.
Despite playing for two major-league teams this year, the Braves and Mets, Bautista said he hasn’t quite shed his Blue Jays skin yet.
“It’s an adjustment, and I’m still going through it,” Bautista said.
Between greeting old teammates, bosses and fans — while serving as the muse of several cameramen at any given moment — Bautista spent a few minutes before batting practice showing third-base coach Glenn Sherlock rightfield. Sherlock wanted to get a sense of how the ball plays off the artificial turf and wall, and Bautista, with most of his 603 Rogers Centre games spent in right, is an expert.
The Mets’ other Toronto homecoming: special assistant to the general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who visited Rogers Centre for the first time since being fired as Blue Jays GM toward the end of the 2009 season . . . They’re playing north of the border, but the Mets are still rocking their stars-and-stripes theme uniforms this series as part of MLB’s celebration of Independence Day . . . An official scoring change: Todd Frazier’s RBI double Sunday — off the glove of Marlins centerfielder Lewis Brinson — was changed to an error on Brinson.