VIERA, Fla. -- Among the Mets' better defensive plays in Saturday's loss to the Nationals was a running grab by left fielder Vinny Rottino, who covered significant ground in snaring Jayson Werth's sinking liner in the fifth inning.
Rottino has now made two straight appearances in left after opening Grapefruit League play as an infielder, which is telling: by far his best chance to make the team is in the outfield.
Should Scott Hairston begin the season on the disabled list -- a realistic scenario -- the Mets will need a right-handed-hitting outfielder to replace him on the roster. Assuming they keep their younger prospects assigned to everyday roles in the Minors, Rottino is the only player in camp who fits that bill.
"Vinny is an outfielder, basically," manager Terry Collins said.
He was exclusively that during a brief Major League stint with the Marlins last year, also playing catcher and first base in the Minors. In addition, Rottino has worked daily this spring at third base with Tim Teufel in an effort to increase his versatility.
But it is the outfield experience that could earn him spot on the Opening Day roster. Hairston, who received three cortisone shots in his midsection earlier this week, is not close to returning from a strained left oblique. If he begins the regular season on the DL, it would all but guarantee that Adam Loewen will make the club over Mike Baxter as the backup center fielder, with Rottino sliding in as a right-handed bench option.
"I try to just play as hard as I can and put together quality at-bats," Rottino said. "However it shakes out, that's how it works in this game. If you start thinking about that stuff -- it's cliche to say, but you've got to stay focused on what happens between the lines."
Wright at least a week away from spring debut
VIERA, Fla. -- Though David Wright's condition continues to improve, the third baseman is at least a week away from appearing in Grapefruit League games, Mets manager Terry Collins said Saturday.
"He's actually getting better, but there's the consideration of what's the next step," Collins said. "Do we do this? Do we do that?"
The Mets will not decide until after Wright meets Monday with Dr. Struan Coleman, who will check the progress of his recovery from left rib cage stiffness. Wright would have traveled to New York for the checkup had Coleman not already been scheduled to fly down to Florida.
In the interim, Wright will continue doing what little physical activity he can. The third baseman fielded grounders on Saturday, but "hasn't done anything full-speed yet, so he's a few days away," according to Collins.
Wright, 29, missed more than two months last season with a different core injury, a stress fracture in his lower back. Nor did he produce anything comparable to his career norms when healthy, batting .255 with 14 home runs in 102 games.
Mets bring Mulvey back with Minors deal
VIERA, Fla. -- Four years later, one of the key pieces in the Johan Santana trade is back with the Mets.
The Mets have signed right-handed pitcher Kevin Mulvey -- one of four players they dealt to Minnesota for Santana after the 2007 season -- to a Minor League contract. Mulvey, 26, appeared in just two big league games for the Twins and eight for the D-backs, most recently in 2010. Arizona released him last month, following a 2011 season that saw Mulvey post a 6.64 ERA over 19 starts with Triple-A Reno.
The Mets' top pick (62nd overall) in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Mulvey joined pitchers Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra and outfielder Carlos Gomez in the January 2008 deal that sent Santana to New York. As a prerequisite to the trade, the Mets extended Santana's contract for six years and $137.5 million -- a record at the time for pitchers.
Though Santana has not pitched in a big league game since September 2010 due to a left shoulder injury, none of the players the Mets dealt to Minnesota ever blossomed into stars. Humber has enjoyed the most success of the group, breaking out in his White Sox debut last season. Gomez developed into a part-time player for the Twins and later the Brewers, with Guerra yet to crack the Major Leagues.
Mulvey will report to Mets Minor League camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Healthy Carson vies to break camp with Mets
VIERA, Fla. -- A quick return from injury may have revived Robert Carson's chances of breaking camp with the Mets, though his odds of doing so remain slim.
The 23-year-old lefty, who struggled as a starting pitcher at Double-A Binghamton last season, allowed one run in one inning of his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. Carson walked one Nationals batter and gave up one hit -- but paramount was his health.
"I'm honored and thankful just to have this opportunity, to be mentioned even to have a chance to break camp with the club," Carson said. "I'm just trying to really focus on pounding the strike zone, giving it my all and seeing what happens."
To make the team, Carson will not only have to pitch well enough for the Mets to justify carrying a second left-handed reliever, but also well enough to outshine fellow lefties Garrett Olson, Daniel Herrera and Chuck James. What Carson has working in his favor is his 40-man roster status, and now his health. Despite a grim initial prognosis from his strained right oblique, Carson missed less than two weeks of action.
"It felt good getting out there, first big league Spring Training game," Carson said. "My oblique is feeling good. I feel good."
Mets manager Terry Collins held right fielder Lucas Duda out of a second straight game on Saturday despite improvement in his stiff lower back. Duda should be back in right field Sunday. Teammate Andres Torres finished 0-for-3 after missing two straight games with a tight right glute, playing four innings in center field.
Left-hander Johan Santana is scheduled to throw three innings and 45-50 pitches in his second Grapefruit League start Sunday against the Marlins. Santana threw two innings and 29 pitches in Tuesday's debut.
R.A. Dickey called Saturday's outing a learning experience, as he experimented in his approach against Nationals hitters. "With certain guys on this team, they have had a certain way of attacking me," said Dickey, who gave up five runs in three innings. "If I can find a difference ... by trying something new, it's another bullet in my gun."
After a rough start to Spring Training during intrasquad games last week, right-hander Bobby Parnell has opened the Grapefruit League schedule with two scoreless innings. "He's throwing the ball very well," Collins said.