Jason Bay to rejoin Mets Thursday

Updated: April 20, 2011, 12:00 PM ET
By Bill Whitehead | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Left fielder Jason Bay left little doubt whether he is ready to join the New York Mets.

Given the major league team's struggles, Bay nearly was back sooner than scheduled.

Bay turned in his best offensive performance of a rehab assignment for a rib-cage strain that landed him on the disabled list to open the season, clubbing a pair of two-run homers, going 4-for-4 and driving in four runs for Class A St. Lucie Tuesday night at Digital Domain Park.

Bay's first homer landed just left of the batter's eye in left-center field. His second shot, also off Fort Myers Miracle left-hander Ryan Mullins, hit the bottom of the scoreboard in left, bouncing off the digital graphic that read "44 Jason Bay."

Mets officials met with Bay on Monday in New York and decided to give him two more games in Florida and activate him Thursday.

However, with the team dropping to 5-12 with a series-opening loss to the Houston Astros and with reliever Bobby Parnell seemingly needing a disabled list trip anyway for middle finger numbness, manager Terry Collins said late Tuesday that Bay could be back at Citi Field on Wednesday.

Upon further review, though, the Mets opted to stick to the original plan and bring Bay back Thursday, according to a source familiar with the plan.

The left fielder became the 57th St. Lucie Met to homer twice in a game. Bay's bid to become the first St. Lucie player to hit three ended after lining a sharp single to left field, drawing a walk and legging out an infield single to short.

St. Lucie beat the Miracle 11-2 to run its record to 11-2, but all the talk was about Bay's performance at the plate.

"The results are definitely nice," said Bay, who played the full game. "I had a decent spring, so it's nice to go out, get that feel back and hit a couple of balls. My focus was not to come out here and go 4-for-4, but it's better than going 0-for-4.

"I had two good swings, and it's a lot easier to repeat it after that. I've had a lot of time down here to work on things. Now it's time to put it to work in games."

Those words are encouraging ones for the floundering Mets, who could use any kind of infusion.

Bay met Monday at Citi Field with general manager Sandy Alderson, assistant general manager John Ricco, Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez to assess his situation. The decision was made to extend his rehabilitation by two more days of full games.

"We met face-to-face and talked about the medical side of it," Bay said. "We deemed it necessary for me to play a couple of full nine-inning games. They knew I wanted to go up there and say I wanted to play, but they decided to be smart about it.

"I told them I'd play two games anywhere. Granted, the results are nice, but it's about getting healthy -- and I feel healthy."

Bay is trekking west across Florida to Port Charlotte on Wednesday, to suit up for St. Lucie one final time against the Charlotte Stone Crabs. He then will depart the Florida State League for Citi Field.

"Yes and no," Bay responded when asked if he was the spark the Mets need. "I'm a pretty big part of that lineup when I'm healthy. So I want to be part of that. At the same time, I don't want to put all this pressure on myself to carry the load."

Added St. Lucie manager Pedro Lopez of Bay's presence: "He's impressive in everything, especially his approach. He's a true professional. He runs the bases well and sets a great example for the kids. He's been great."

Bay, 32, said he was "pretty down" for a couple of days following the rib-cage injury that occurred just two days before spring training camp broke.

"It was a gut check, and I just accepted it and tried to get back," he said.

Bay's first season with the Mets ended last July 23 when he sustained a concussion after crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium. In comparing the two injuries, he said the latter ailment was tougher to accept.

"Maybe this [injury] is a little more frustrating because when you run into a wall you get a concussion. OK, hey, what happens, happens," Bay said. "But to come in healthy and feeling good, then take a swing in batting practice two days before the season starts? That stunk.

"That was the toughest part. If it had happened at the beginning of spring, I could deal with it and move on. I keep telling people my timing is impeccable because it couldn't have happened at a worse time."

Bill Whitehead is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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