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K-Rod back with Mets after bout with pinkeye

Francisco Rodriguez has returned to Mets after a

Francisco Rodriguez has returned to Mets after a bout with conjunctivitis. (Feb. 20, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

JUPITER, Fla. - Francisco Rodriguez ended his team-imposed quarantine at 8:30 Monday morning when he walked into the Tradition Field clubhouse and began shaking hands.

K-Rod had been banned since March 1 because of the highly contagious and very stubborn strain of conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, that he showed up with at the start of spring training. Rodriguez contracted it in both eyes, which were blood red before his banishment but looked clear Monday.

Just to make sure, Rodriguez peered into the mirror beside his corner locker, then turned to speak to reporters about his condition.

"Hopefully, it's much better," he said. "But there's still discomfort."

At least it's tolerable, and just as important, there's no risk of Rodriguez contaminating his teammates. It got so bad before his departure that bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello wore a latex glove on his throwing hand to avoid getting infected while he caught K-Rod.

With Opening Day less than four weeks away, the focus now is getting up to speed. Ordered to stay away from the ballpark, Rodriguez tried to keep in shape last week by playing catch with his brother, Edward, in the driveway of his home in Port St. Lucie.

Edward also had pinkeye, as did every member of Rodriguez's extended family, including K-Rod's two children.

"It's been difficult watching them go through this," Rodriguez said. "I don't know exactly where I got it from."

It's not quite over yet for K-Rod, either. He arrived Monday with an Oakley case under his arm. Until his eyes heal completely, he again will use the goggle-type sunglasses he used to wear with the Angels.

The plan is for Rodriguez to pitch a bullpen session Tuesday, followed by batting practice Thursday. If K-Rod passes those two tests, the team expects him to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this weekend. Presumably, latex gloves will not be required.

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