PHILADELPHIA — Even with centerfielder Juan Lagares just days away from returning to action, Mets officials are thinking about keeping a spot on the bench for Michael Conforto, who started for just the second time this season in Wednesday’s series finale against the Phillies.
And just as he did in his last start, Conforto homered.
“I wanted to get Michael in there otherwise he’d have about four or five days without getting at-bats,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Conforto started in center and led off for a healthy Curtis Granderson, who had been atop the lineup with the slumping Jose Reyes batting seventh for the second straight game.
Conforto entered with just eight plate appearances in the Mets’ first eight games of the season. He was 2-for-6 with one homer in his first start. In his second, he reached base and scored in his first three trips to the plate.
With a full outfield, Conforto appeared likely to begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, with the Mets prioritizing everyday playing time for the highly-regarded former first rounder.
Lagares’ left oblique strain opened up a spot on the bench. But the Mets are warming to the idea of sticking with Conforto — at least for a few weeks — even though Lagares’ return could further limit his playing time off the bench.
Lagares went 1-for-4 as the designated hitter for Class-A St. Lucie. He has played in three straight rehab games, an indication that he could be returning to the Mets shortly.
If they elect to carry both Conforto and Lagares, the Mets would demote one of their relievers, which would restore a standard five-player bench.
Matt Harvey remains scheduled to make his next scheduled start on Sunday, Collins said. Harvey departed after 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday night with a cramp in his left hamstring . . . The Mets assigned utility man Cody Decker to Double-A Binghamton . . . David Wright has resumed throwing, though Collins said his return is still a long ways off. “We’re talking right now some baby steps, but they’re steps forward, that’s the best part,” Collins said. “I’m hoping that when he’s ready and he gets down to Florida and he starts to really move faster where it’s nice and warm and he can do some other things.”