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Michael Conforto ‘most likely’ fill-in if Juan Lagares can’t go, source says

New York Mets' Michael Conforto (30) high-fives teammates

New York Mets' Michael Conforto (30) high-fives teammates in the dugout after he hit a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 25, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla. Credit: AP / John Raoux

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — As spring training comes to a close, several players with experience in centerfield are expected to become available. But a source said Sunday that the Mets’ intention for now is to stay in-house.

That means Michael Conforto is “most likely” going to make the Mets’ roster as an outfielder off the bench if Juan Lagares isn’t ready for Opening Day, the source said.

Conforto had been ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas, with the Mets prioritizing his need for everyday playing time.

Even if Lagares’ strained left oblique isn’t healed in time for Opening Day, Conforto wouldn’t play every day for the Mets. But with Lagares down and Brandon Nimmo still sidelined with a hamstring strain, Conforto and projected starter Curtis Granderson are the only players on the 40-man roster with experience in center.

“If Juan’s hurt, Mike’s the best option we have to certainly go out and play some centerfield,” manager Terry Collins said.

Of course, Conforto’s experience is limited to six major-league games at that position. But he has played centerfield in spring training and geared his offseason workouts partly to prepare for playing the position in case there was an opening in the crowded outfield.

Conforto has amplified his argument for inclusion, hitting .340 with three homers in 53 at-bats.

Lagares is set to be examined by doctors Monday and could have an MRI exam. But he reported improvement one day after feeling tightness in his oblique while running the bases.

“It’s way better than yesterday,” said Lagares, who is not doing baseball activities.

Lagares suffered an injury to his right intercostal muscle during the 2014 season. It cost him about three weeks, but he doesn’t think this injury is as severe.

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