Mets’ Starling Marte takes key step forward in rehab

PORT ST. LUCIE — Starling Marte was not allowed to swing, but he still found a way to be quite active Wednesday afternoon in a minor league exhibition game.

The Mets outfielder, who has been nursing a sore left oblique, took another step forward in his rehab — playing right field, standing in the batter’s box to see pitches (even putting down a bunt in his last at-bat) and running the bases in a game against the Astros on a back field.

“He bunted, he stole bases, played defense and got a lot out of it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He impressed [first-base coach] Wayne Kirby. [Kirby] said, ‘He can really run.’ But Kirb said he had a good face about it. You could tell he was feeling good about himself.”

Marte also tagged up from third base on a pair of shallow fly balls to the outfield, though he was thrown out at home both times.

Before playing in the minor league game Wednesday, Marte had advanced to hitting off a tee and hitting flips in the batting cage. Showalter said he was not yet sure when Marte would move to taking batting practice or hitting in a game, but has indicated the veteran could still be ready for Opening Day if he does not incur any setbacks.

Starling Marte
Starling Marte
Corey Sipkin

Marte’s position — right field — was also of note since he has not played a game there in his major league career, instead splitting time between center field and left field. The Mets could opt to use Brandon Nimmo in center or right, with Mark Canha set to slot in at left field.

The Grapefruit League debuts of Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco will have to wait, but they will still get their work in on Thursday.

With the forecast calling for rain around Thursday night’s scheduled first pitch against the Marlins, the Mets decided to move up Bassitt and Carrasco’s outings to an intrasquad minor league game in the afternoon. Both starting pitchers are scheduled to throw three innings, according to Showalter.

“Just to make sure we get them in,” Showalter said. “We’re gonna invent a game.”

Catcher James McCann, who was scratched from Tuesday’s game with back tightness, did not participate in the Mets’ workout Wednesday.

“He’s better today,” Showalter said. “I think we’ve gotten ahead of it. I talked to him a little bit, he said he felt pretty good today. He’s not going to catch tomorrow. But hopefully shortly thereafter.”

Pitchers Yennsy Diaz and Felix Pena arrived at camp on Tuesday after being delayed by visa issues.