PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps more than any team in baseball, the Mets hold respect for all that Chipper Jones has accomplished over a soon-to-be-complete 19-year career with the Braves.
On Thursday, Jones announced his plans to retire after this season, and the Mets will certainly not miss him much. When Jones steps off the field for the final time, he will end his career as one of the foremost Mets killers in franchise history.
"He's been one of those guys where I always looked across and tried to take away some of the things from his game and apply it to mine," said third baseman David Wright, who has played in the same division as Jones for the last eight seasons. "He's just been so consistent, so good for so long, and been part of a lot of great teams. It's going to be a little odd looking across there and not seeing Chipper in uniform, that's for sure."
Over his first 18 seasons, Jones hit 48 of his 454 career home runs against the Mets -- more than against any other team. Mets manager Terry Collins joked on Thursday that he would not allow Jones to beat him late in games in this, his final season.
Jones has also caught the attention of the New York media on more than one occasion, criticizing Wright in particular after the latter won a Gold Glove at third base in 2007.
"He's never shied away from speaking his mind, which is one of the reasons that you've got to like him and respect him," Wright said. "He's entertaining. He's just as entertaining on the baseball field. It always seems like he's got something funny to say. I'm going to miss that. He's so good at this game. He's been so good at this game, a Hall of Famer. And he still has a tremendous sense of humor."
Wright participates in complete workout
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright's full morning of drills highlighted the Mets' most optimistic collection of injury news in some time, with outfielders Andres Torres and Scott Hairston also encouraged by Thursday's progress.
For the first time in nearly three weeks, Wright participated in a complete workout, including live batting practice, fielding drills and throwing with his teammates.
"Everything but the game," Wright said.
And that could come as soon as early next week, after Wright participates in a few more full days of practice.
Wright is recovering from a strained left abdominal muscle and recently took a cortisone injection to speed the healing process. And though he has yet to play in a Grapefruit League game, he is confident he can amass enough at-bats in Minor League games, if necessary, to be ready for Opening Day.
"At least in my eyes, this was kind of like the first day for me of Spring Training," he said. "I feel about as good as I can feel the first time picking up a bat in a few weeks. Hopefully, it gets better from here, results-wise."
The news was equally encouraging for Hairston, who strained his left oblique early in camp and has been even slower to heal than Wright, despite receiving three cortisone shots in his midsection. Hairston swung a bat on Thursday morning for the first time since his injury, classifying the exercise as "terrific" and "very encouraging."
"I was very happy with the way things went," said Hairston, who plans on hitting off a tee and participating in soft-toss drills on Friday. "Today was great. I felt fine doing what I did."
If Hairston can heal quickly enough to be ready for Opening Day, it would ease the strain on a Mets team still puzzling over its center-field situation. Exacerbating those circumstances is a minor injury to the left calf of Torres, who woke up on Thursday feeling better and who plans to return to Grapefruit League action soon.
"I'm hoping a few more days," Torres said. "It's a mild injury. Today I feel a little better, and we'll go day by day to see how it's going to feel. But I don't want to rush it."
If he keeps improving and all else goes according to plan for the Mets, Torres will start in center field on Opening Day, with Hairston on the bench. That alignment would allow the Mets to carry either Mike Baxter or Adam Loewen as their fifth outfielder without having to expose either to center field on a regular basis.
In the meantime, the Mets continued experimenting at the position on Thursday, inserting infield prospect Jordany Valdespin in center in the eighth inning. Valdespin made one putout in his outfield debut, zigzagging uncertainly on his route to catch Jason Castro's routine fly ball.
Left-hander Tim Byrdak jogged around the clubhouse pain-free on Thursday after having the stitches removed from his surgically repaired left knee. Byrdak, who tore the meniscus in the knee earlier this month, plans to begin playing catch on Friday and hopes to be back with the Mets by mid-April.
The Mets are not concerned about the sprained right ankle that has affected Mike Pelfrey throughout camp. Pelfrey, who sustained the injury over the winter, has made all of his spring starts on schedule and will continue to do so.
First baseman Ike Davis turned 25 on Thursday. The Mets celebrated with a practical joke, posting "Happy 30th Birthday Ike Davis" on the stadium scoreboard during his first at-bat.
Rather than face the Nationals for the third time this spring, right-hander Dillon Gee will pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Top prospect Matt Harvey, who was had recently been demoted to Minor League camp, will travel to Viera, Fla., to start in Gee's place.
Astros pitcher and former Mets farmhand Rhiner Cruz pitched a perfect fifth inning in Thursday's game. Cruz, the top overall pick in December's Rule 5 Draft, must be offered back to the Mets at the end of Spring Training if he does not make Houston's Opening Day roster.
The Mets reassigned reliever Chuck James to Minor League camp after Thursday's game, leaving Garrett Olson, Daniel Herrera and Josh Edgin as the only remaining left-handed candidates for the Opening Day bullpen. The Mets have 39 players left in Major League camp.