Starling Marte rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home...

Starling Marte rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of preseason game against the Astros on Friday, March 10, 2023. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Forget whether Starling Marte will be ready by the start of the season.

He might be ready now.

In his Grapefruit League debut Friday, Marte took three swings and hammered two balls, a double into the leftfield corner and a home run to left-center off Astros righty Shawn Dubin. He also played four innings in rightfield in the Mets’ 7-2 win.

“I feel good, but I’m not at 100% right now,” Marte, who ran hard but not all out on his double, said through an interpreter. “I was able to run a bit, but we’re advancing day by day . . . As I get stronger, as my body gets stronger throughout the next couple of [weeks], I should be ready for Opening Day at 100%.”

Marte’s double groin surgery in November meant a slow start to spring training, but he said he doesn’t expect it to impact the way he runs the bases or roams the outfield.

Still, Marte does not want to play centerfield. Last year, he expressed a strong preference to stick to rightfield for the sake of his transition to that spot. This year, he prefers the same.

“We have other guys that can play centerfield. It’s also a good opportunity for them to also be in the game,” he said. “I feel good with the same plan we had last year .  .  . Rightfield was a position that I was getting comfortable with because I had never played it before. This year, I’m starting to really get the hang of it.  I’m understanding the smaller details that I need to be great at that position.”

Question answered

Justin Verlander discovered another detail in the gray-area minutia of the new rules. After he fidgeted with a wet mound in his first inning against Houston, he asked inquired withplate umpire C.B. Bucknor abouthow to go about that relatively normal endeavorwithout getting dinged forviolating the pitch clock.

Bucknor told him he wasn’t totally sure, but just communicate about it. The umpire should give him time (without penalty).

“There’s going to be a lot of little things like that that happen,” said Verlander, who tossed 48 pitches in 3 1/3 innings. “Common sense is one of those things weneeded to fall back on quite a bit.”

Extra bases

Darin Ruf said his right wrist (arthritis) feels “a little bit better than it did” before he received a cortisone shot and rest at the start of camp, but it’s still bothering him. “I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know how this condition works,” he said. “Sometimes I think it’ll bother me and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a pain management thing.” Ruf is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts . . . In the Mets’ 7-5 loss to the Cardinals, shortstop prospect Jett Williams — a first-round pick last summer playing in his first Grapefruit League game — had an RBI double . . . Brandon Nimmo will make his spring training debut Sunday, Buck Showalter said.

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