Mets second baseman Ronny Mauricio looks on from the dugout...

Mets second baseman Ronny Mauricio looks on from the dugout during an MLB game against the Diamondbacks at Citi Field on Sept. 12. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The last player to report to Mets spring training was someone who may well not play at all this season: Ronny Mauricio.

Mauricio tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in December while playing in the Dominican Winter League, so he has been plenty busy anyway, going through early stages of a long rehabilitation process at the minor-league complex and the Mets’ facility in the Dominican Republic.

But now he has joined the big-league club, just as manager Carlos Mendoza wanted.

“The connection with the boys, the connection with the coaching staff — it’s important for him that he feels [involved],” Mendoza said Thursday. “Because he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here moving forward.”

Mauricio, 22, will attend team meetings and — Mendoza hopes — be a part of the general team camaraderie despite being so far away from returning. A cameo in September is his best-case scenario, but far from a given.

Mendoza said he has gone out of his way to have several conversations with Mauricio to “make him feel important, making sure mentally — not only physically — he’s in a good place."

“It’s tough, especially what he’s going through right now,” Mendoza said. “These are some of the things that I’ve been telling him: It’s going to get hard. You’re watching the team playing games and you want to be out there and feel like you can contribute. But you don’t have that opportunity. But make sure you get better physically.”

Mauricio, 22, has tried to take a positive approach to his major injury, calling it “one of those learning lessons.”

“I wouldn’t say it was technically a good thing that happened, but it’s definitely something where I can kind of sit down and kind of reflect, just to continue growing as a player, continue to watch more and more,” he said through an interpreter. “I think a lot of good came out of it, just because it gave me some time to work on my physical [condition] . . . and continue learning.”

Delay by design

When the Mets open their exhibition schedule Saturday against the Cardinals, don’t expect to see Brandon Nimmo’s name in the lineup.

Nimmo will hold off for a couple of weeks before getting into Grapefruit League games, as he has done the past couple of years. His goal is to ensure a slower, more careful buildup toward the regular season and limit his Grapefruit action, since those games don’t matter, he said.

In 2023, Nimmo played in six exhibition contests. In 2022, he totaled eight.

Harrison Bader, who had groin surgery at the end of last season, also will be delayed, Mendoza said.

Spring scenes

Drew Smith was locked into a lengthy, enjoyable matchup with Pete Alonso during live batting practice Thursday. And then Alonso walked away.

“I don’t want to be selfish,” Alonso told Smith.

Smith was supposed to throw only 20 pitches in his one simulated inning. Alonso had seen nine, working a full count. Instead of finishing the at-bat, he abdicated so someone else could have a turn.

“It was a good battle, though,” a purportedly disappointed but smiling Smith said.

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