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Juan Lagares begins rehab assignment

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The Mets hope he’ll return by the end of the weekend.

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Lagares, whose strained left oblique suffered late in spring training landed him on the 10-day disabled list to start the season, began a minor league rehab assignment last night with St. Lucie, going 1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI. The current plan is for him to play again on Wednesday, followed by back-to-back games before activation. The Mets are targeting the end of this weekend for his return.

Lagares hit just .239/.301/.380 in 2016, but rebounded defensively to the elite form that won him the 2014 Gold Glove, posting a 17.6 UZR/150 in center field. He has struggled with injuries for much of his career, last year with a thumb sprain that eventually required surgery.

While blocked from regular playing time by a veteran outfield logjam, a healthy Lagares should see plenty of action in 2017. At minimum, he should fill an incredibly useful role as a right-handed bat off the bench and dynamic, frequent defensive replacement, and his activation would bring the number of MLB-quality defensive center fielders on the Mets’ active roster to to one.

A successful return this weekend would surely be a relief, as oblique injuries have a tendency to linger longer than expected. Perhaps the most interesting question regarding Lagares’s pending activation would be the corresponding roster move that would accompany it, and whether it might mean a trip to Triple-A Las Vegas for Michael Conforto, coming off a stellar first start of the season on Sunday night.