PORT ST. LUCIE — Wilmer Flores may not face many right-handed pitchers this season, but on Monday, he took a step toward proving he is up for the challenge.
The Mets infielder — who started at first base — smashed a solo homer against righty Michael Feliz in the seventh inning of the Mets’ 5-2 exhibition loss to the Astros.
It came a day after Michael Conforto homered against a left-handed pitcher as the outfielder attempts to prove he can handle lefties.
“Obviously you are not doing any [situational] pinch hitting down here,” manager Terry Collins said. “But Michael is going to face lefties, and Wilmer is going to face righties any time because you just never know when you are going to need them to face those guys when the season starts, so it’s good, at least in spring training, to see those guys from the other side.”
Lucas Duda took grounders and threw during pregame workouts but has not been cleared to resume swinging a bat. The first baseman has battled what he termed back spasms and still is waiting to make his Grapefruit League debut this spring. Collins indicated it still could be a few days before Duda begins hitting.
The Mets could begin using their marquee starting pitchers as soon as Thursday, according to Collins. Noah Syndergaard is first in line to pitch. The manager received a positive report on Zack Wheeler following his latest bullpen session and plans to let the righty throw live batting practice this week before using him in a simulated game. If Wheeler doesn’t suffer a setback, he could pitch in an exhibition game next week.
Ty Kelly left camp to join Team Israel in South Korea for the World Baseball Classic.
David Wright smashed a line-drive single to left field in the first inning of the Mets’ 5-2 exhibition loss to the Astros. The Mets captain started at DH for the second time this spring as he builds up arm strength to play third base.
Veteran lefty Tom Gorzelanny, pitching for the first time this spring, surrendered four earned runs on four hits and three walks in the ninth inning and took a blown save.
Phillip Evans made two fine defensive plays at third base for the Mets, including a diving stop and strong throw to rob Jake Marisnick of a hit in the second inning.
Seth Lugo is the Mets’ scheduled starting pitcher against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.
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