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Not the start Rafael Montero wanted in first spring training outing

Rafael Montero of the New York Mets pitches

Rafael Montero of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning of a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium on March 3, 2016 in Viera, Florida. Credit: Getty Images / Joe Robbins

VIERA, Fla. — For the established members of the Mets’ starting rotation, it would be easy to shrug off a lackluster first start. It is spring training, after all.

But Rafael Montero possesses little such leeway.

The once-highly regarded prospect arrived at camp hoping to prove himself after a disastrous 2015 season. But in the Mets’ Grapefruit League opener Thursday — a 9-4 loss to the Nationals — Montero drew mock cheers.

Montero allowed the first five men he faced to reach base before finally striking out Danny Espinosa, prompting some sarcasm to spill over from the stands.

Known as a strike-thrower, Montero battled with his command as he allowed four runs, four hits and two walks in the first inning. It was not the beginning that the 25-year-old had envisioned.

“I don’t think it was anything specific,” Montero said through a translator. “I just think it’s one of those days when some days are good, some days are bad, and this was definitely a bad one.”

Montero was pulled with the Mets behind 4-0 after throwing 39 pitches in one inning.

“It’s not a big deal,” manager Terry Collins said. “It is the first outing. But we’ve got to get the ball around the plate. So that’s our next goal.”

After five appearances last season, Montero complained of shoulder pain, though team doctors never found a cause. His summer consisted of the same frustrating cycle: the start of a throwing program and the inevitable shutdown.

“It’s just key for me to be healthy right now, I’m happy with that,” Montero said. “I’m really just looking at it as the first time going around. Hopefully everything will go better moving forward.”

Extra bases

Ruben Tejada went 0-for-2 in his first game action since Chase Utley’s controversial takeout slide left him with a broken leg in last year’s NLDS . . . Righthander Gabriel Ynoa, a highly regarded prospect, tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Montero . . . The Mets will get their first look at their revamped middle infield. Second baseman Neil Walker and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will start Friday’s home exhibition opener against the Marlins. Third baseman David Wright and rightfielder Curtis Granderson, who is working his way back from eye irritation, will be held out. The Mets intend to ease Wright into games, hoping that a decreased workload helps with his management of the back condition spinal stenosis . . . Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion, Billy Bean, will visit Mets camp. He is scheduled to work out with the team, throw batting practice and coach first base for a few innings.

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