Terry Collins said the Mets are eyeing the middle of next week to get David Wright at-bats, but caution will be the priority as the captain returns from a strained intercostal muscle on his left side.
“Each and every step is a positive with David," Collins said after Wright hit off a tee and hit flips Saturday. "We’re looking at the middle of next week for possible at-bats as we head into next weekend. Once again, I’m going to be very cautious. This guy is a huge piece. The last thing we need to do is to try to tell him he needs to rush or he needs to hurry. But we’ll see where he is in the middle of next week.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Murphy may enter a minor league game Sunday. Murphy last played in a minor league game eight days ago, logging five innings at second base, but his injured right side subsequently became tight.
“I think it’s too early to tell,” Collins said about whether Murphy could be ready for Opening Day. “A minor league game -- is he going to play four innings? Two innings? Three innings? How many at-bats is he going to get? … The last time he played in a minor league game he rushed it and he took a huge step backward. I will be the first guy in the morning to make sure he does not overdo it tomorrow.”
On Johan Santana, Collins said: "I've kind of had that feeling for a while that he's going to be very cautious getting himself back, making sure his shoulder is at the same strength it was last year when he left here. This guy started throwing last December [in 2011]. You're looking at December, January, February, March last year before he left here. And his arm was in great shape. We're starting in basically February this year. I don't necessarily think it's going to take four months, but it may take six weeks to get him where he wants to be."
Keith Hernandez, the first captain in Mets history, said he regrets wearing the "C" on his jersey to denote the role.
"I kind of liked it from the beginning," Hernandez told Newsday. "It's kind of an ego thing. But the more and more I wore it, the more it got a little bit ... it was too big."
"I wish I hadn't," Hernandez continued. "It was like a hockey 'C' instead of the smaller 'C'. But that's what they did. But [Derek] Jeter doesn't wear a 'C'. It's not necessary. Everybody knows."
Zack Wheeler pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Saturday, and the various MLB scouts who flocked to the event could not stop raving.
Wheeler was pumping fastballs with a smooth delivery at 96-98 mph, and also was flashing a curveball, slider and an occasional changeup.
"He's got four pitches," one scout observed.
Added another: "And they're all plus, plus, plus, plus."
"So effortless," a third scout said about Wheeler's delivery.
Those with a trained eye who watched Saturday concluded Wheeler is a definite No. 1 starter and ready now, although he is slated to start at Triple-A Las Vegas.
"He's really good ... and we're not getting him," one scout said with a laugh, noting the Mets would never trade the future ace.
About the only thing Wheeler didn't do well Saturday was bunt. Facing Erik Goeddel, Wheeler bunted into a double play.
For the first time in camp, Frank Francisco faced batters Saturday morning.
Francisco, who has been suffering from elbow inflammation, threw a 25-pitch batting practice. He described himself afterward as "really sore" but not alarmed.
"I expect to be sore," he said. "It hurts."
Francisco expects to be in a game during the upcoming week. Dan Warthen believes that will come on the minor league side.
Francisco will open the season on the disabled list.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who is slated to open the season on the disabled list, may not make a quick return to the New York Mets.
Santana continues to be plagued by shoulder weakness and is only throwing on flat ground at 90 feet.
He roughly would need to double that distance on flat ground before returning to a mound for the first time since an ill-fated March 6 attempt.
Assuming everything feels OK at that point, he still would need to go through a full spring training-like ramping up.
“I’ve just got to stay here and work out and get ready,” Santana said Saturday morning. “… I’m making progress. It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again. That’s the thing: We cannot think ahead. The way we’re approaching everything is every day make sure we have a good day.”