MILWAUKEE — Juan Lagares returned to action Thursday night for the first time since partially tearing a ligament in his left thumb, doubling and scoring after entering as a defensive replacement as the Mets beat the Brewers, 5-2.
“I feel good right now,” said Lagares, who played with a splint providing stability to his heavily taped left thumb.
Earlier in the day, he swung a bat for the first time since hurting his thumb on a diving catch Saturday. Manager Terry Collins said Lagares looked so good in batting practice that he resolved to get him in the game.
Lagares entered to play centerfield in the eighth and led off the ninth by sending a bouncer through the middle. He turned it into a double by rounding first and sliding headfirst into second.
“That play was a little dangerous,” Lagares said. “But when you’re out there, you really don’t think what’s going to happen.”
The hard-nosed play came hours after Collins talked to him about “the importance of not trying to be a hero here, where all of a sudden he’s not playing like we need him to play because of the thumb.”
The appearance was encouraging for Lagares, who is trying to play through the injury. Until Thursday, the Mets had been in a holding pattern, waiting for the swelling to die down.
Matt Harvey starts Friday night in hopes of delivering his third strong start in a row. “He feels good about how he’s throwing,” Collins said. “He feels good about the way the ball’s coming out of his hand. That means a lot. I think his confidence is really, really good right now. So I would say he’s out of the woods. But again, there’s a lot of starts to go.” . . . Steven Matz will start Sunday’s series finale, which means Jacob deGrom will make his next start on extra rest . . . Utilityman Kelly Johnson is expected to be activated Friday. He was re-acquired in a trade with the Braves on Wednesday.