PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — So where is Juan Lagares?
For now, limited to practice, the presumptive Opening Day centerfielder is being cautious with a tight left hamstring that has kept him out of the first two Grapefruit League games. Lagares said he did “everything” with the rest of the team before Saturday’s 10-5 loss to the Cardinals at First Data Field, but manager Mickey Callaway hasn’t decided when he’ll put him in the lineup.
According to Callaway, Lagares felt a “twinge” in the back of his left leg during cut-off drills earlier in the week, so thought it best to be careful with him early in the schedule. As of now, that seemed to be the smart move as Lagares is nearly back to full speed.
“He’d be playing right now if this were the regular season,” Callaway said.
Before the games began, Callaway suggested that Lagares would get a bulk of the leadoff assignments, mainly to give him plenty of at-bats to employ the elevated, fly-ball producing swing he worked on during the winter. Instead, Brandon Nimmo — maybe the Mets’ most qualified leadoff man — has been atop the order in the first two games. Nimmo went 1-for-2 Saturday with a single and RBI.
Bruce not loose
Jay Bruce also has been noticeably absent from the Mets’ lineup and Callaway said he’ll likely be held out until Tuesday, and used as the DH, as he deals with plantar fasciitis. Bruce participated in Saturday’s morning drills and ran without difficulty in the outfield grass, so keeping him from game action appears to be mostly precautionary.
Bruce has played fewer than 146 games only once in the past eight years — he was limited to 137 in 2014 — while averaging 151. Sandy Alderson cited Bruce’s durability as a big plus in signing him to a three-year, $39-million contract this winter.
Seth Lugo pitched two scoreless innings, striking out one, in his spring-training debut. With Callaway’s emphasis on more breaking balls, that’s just fine with Lugo, who has one of the highest spin rates in the majors. “I always enjoyed throwing a curveball,” Lugo said. “So I was like, ‘Cool, I can do that.’ ” . . . Noah Syndergaard will make his Grapefruit debut against the Astros’ Justin Verlander Monday in West Palm Beach. He’s likely to be followed by Steven Matz Tuesday vs. the Astros at First Data Field and Matt Harvey vs. the Braves Wednesday at Disney. Jacob deGrom, who rejoined the team Saturday after the birth of his daughter, likely will go Thursday when the Mets host the Marlins.