Mets’ Francisco Alvarez takes batting practice for first time since thumb surgery

Francisco Alvarez was seen walking around Citi Field with a smile as wide as Broadway on Saturday morning. Finally, the Mets catcher was cleared to take batting practice with the team for the first time since undergoing UCL thumb surgery in Los Angeles in April.

It’s a benchmark he had yet to clear in his rehab, and while other steps still need to be taken before he can return to action, it’s a big step nonetheless.

“I’m very happy with how I’m feeling and very happy with how everything is going,” Alvarez said Saturday at Citi Field.

Alvarez drew a crowd as he took bunts and full swings, hitting one 115 mph off the bat. No restrictions were placed on him and he swung the bat as he would any other day.

“He was really letting it eat out there,” hitting coach Jeremy Barnes said. “He looked great.”

It’s a good sign for a beleaguered Mets squad that is missing a key cog in their lineup and a catcher who is popular with the pitching staff. The next step will be to take pitches from the machine, take live batting practice and catch 1-2 bullpens before the Mets send him out on a rehab assignment with a minor league affiliate.

He’s hoping to return in a few weeks, but the timeline is still fluid.

“Whether it’s a few more weeks or days, I don’t know,” Alvarez said. “It’s how everything is going. If I keep feeling good, keep doing good, I don’t feel nothing in my thumb, my body keeps feeling good, maybe a couple weeks.”

Alvarez is able to do baseball activities while wearing a splint. It’s not restrictive and it doesn’t affect how he catches the baseball. If the ball hits the splint while in the mitt, he can feel it, but otherwise, he has no residual pain or soreness.

Alvarez has been getting advice from Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had the same injury on his catching hand in 2022. The Venezuelan backstops are familiar with one another from training in Miami and Alvarez has found Perez’s experiences with the injury helpful.

“He told me how it’s gone, and asked how it’s going for me,” Alvarez said. “He said to use the splint and be careful after hitting. And he tells me to take my time.”

Rotation plans

The Mets will start right-hander Tylor Megill and left-hander Jose Quintana to start the first two games of the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, starting Monday. A decision hasn’t been made for the third game when Adrian Houser’s spot in the rotation comes up again.

Left-hander David Peterson is an option. He made a rehab start Friday night with Triple-A Syracuse, throwing 90 pitches with his full velocity.

Peterson underwent hip labrum surgery in November and wasn’t expected back until July, but he’s ahead of schedule after a smooth rehab and the Mets think he is ready to be inserted into a Major League rotation.

“He’s ready to go, but we’ve got to wait and see how the next couple of days unfold as far as how he’s feeling and things like that,” said manager Carlos Mendoza. “Everything is pointing in the right direction and we’ve got a decision to make.”