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Michael Conforto ‘fully expects’ to play next week

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Conforto is making fast progress in his return from a shoulder injury.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Conforto “fully expects” to play in a Grapefruit League game next week, according to Mike Puma. That milestone would mark the next step of Conforto’s recovery from an anterior capsule tear in his left (rear) shoulder, as he’s progressed quickly through soft toss and live batting practice so far this spring. The injury, a unique one according to Dr. Christopher Ahmad, head of Major League Baseball’s Team Physicians Association, sidelined Conforto late in 2017, and has created lingering questions over the Mets’ outfield situation heading into this season.

For once, a Met seems to be recovering at or ahead of schedule from a bad injury (knock on wood). The Mets have been pushing an early May return date for much of the offseason. While opening day is still out of the question, Conforto’s fast progress this spring gives hope that he should hit his early May return window and perhaps make it back to the majors even before that.

Conforto is one of several injured linchpins on which the season rests. He was one of the best players in baseball last year, combining a 146 wRC+ and surprisingly above average CF defense to post 4.4 fWAR in only 440 PA. If healthy, he’s the Mets’ second best hitter behind Yoenis Cespedes, and makes a somewhat thin group of outfielders much stronger. What’s more, he could also improve the team’s thin first base depth chart by pushing Jay Bruce out of right field if Juan Lagares and/or Brandon Nimmo acquit themselves well in the first month of the season.