WASHINGTON -- David Wright sat and listened as a 19-year-old war veteran, who had just returned from Afghanistan three days earlier, related the details of his injury to the Mets third baseman.
"To just see his spirits -- I think they enjoy talking about their injuries, telling their stories, what's going on there," Wright said. "To be able to sit down and listen to these first-hand accounts with guys that are protecting us and serving our country, it goes without saying that it puts things in perspective."
Wright's conversation was just one snapshot from the Mets' annual visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The entire team makes the pilgrimage there once per year, in a trip that grew out of owner Fred Wilpon's commitment to military causes.
"It's always a humbling experience," second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "It's very humbling to see what men and women are able and willing to give up. And then one of the reoccurring themes of it is that each one of them would do it all over again, even if they knew the outcome. To me, that speaks volumes as to the character of the individuals in there."
"There's probably nothing else that I could say that hasn't been said before," Wright said. "That trip is something I really look forward to."
Pain-free Niese poised to return to rotation
WASHINGTON -- Jon Niese threw a 39-pitch bullpen session Wednesday without pain or discomfort, keeping him on track to re-enter to the rotation Saturday against the Marlins.
"It's nice to throw a bullpen without feeling any soreness or pain," said Niese, who missed his last start with left shoulder tendinitis. "I kept the arm angle up and made some pitches in the bullpen that had probably 85 or 90 percent intensity, and felt really good. I'm pretty confident that I feel good. How it felt before, in between each start, was night-and-day difference from how it felt today. It was good to get that rest."
Barring some unexpected setback later this week, Niese will return to the rotation Saturday at Citi Field, slotting behind Matt Harvey and pushing Collin McHugh back to the bullpen. The left-hander is 3-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 11 starts this season, but 1-1 with a 1.33 mark over his last three.
"He said he felt great yesterday," manager Terry Collins said. "He had no discomfort at all, no tightness. So that was a good sign."
Mets want Lagares' bat to catch up with glove
WASHINGTON -- Seeking to give Juan Lagares at least two consecutive games in center field, Mets manager Terry Collins offered the rookie a rare start Wednesday against a right-handed pitcher. Lagares should start again Thursday, with lefty Gio Gonzalez on the mound.
Whether he receives more opportunities going forward is entirely up to him.
"He needs to hit," Collins said of Lagares, who entered the game with a .146 average in 48 at-bats. "We're making enough outs, let alone just to give them away."
If nothing else, playing time in center field these days is certainly up for grabs. Though the Mets are curious to see what Lagares can provide on both sides of the ball, they are also wary of overexposing the rookie. That led them last month to acquire Rick Ankiel, who has struggled while starting regularly against right-handed pitchers.
With Kirk Nieuwenhuis recently catching fire at Triple-A Las Vegas, the Mets may soon jettison either Ankiel or Lagares to make room for him. So the next few days should be telling.
"I think both of them are good defenders," Collins said. "Because the ceiling's so high on Lagares, you hope that the playing time is going to get him to be a better player, where maybe even offensively he'll grow."
Losing Familia to surgery a big blow to 'pen
WASHINGTON -- Expressing pessimism that Jeurys Familia will pitch for the Mets again this season, manager Terry Collins admitted Wednesday that he expected to lean heavily on the right-hander as this season progressed.
"I really thought by the end of the season, he would be that eighth-inning guy," Collins said of Familia, who underwent surgery Wednesday to remove bone spurs and loose bodies from his pitching elbow. "I told him he's just got to make sure he goes out and works hard, and when the rehab comes, rehab. He's a good worker. I know he'll bounce back. I'm just glad there was no further damage than that."
Familia was earning more and more responsibility in the weeks leading up to his injury, regularly pitching later in games and even earning a rogue save opportunity. But general manager Sandy Alderson estimated Familia's recovery at six to eight weeks plus rehab, meaning he may not be able to pitch until September, if at all.
"I don't think we'll have him this year," Collins said. "But certainly as long as it's not ligaments, as long as just a bone spur, I know that he'll physically come back and be fine. And when he's throwing pain free, I don't know what the timeframe is, but he has the luxury also of being able to pitch in December, pitching down in the Dominican, getting ready for Spring Training to where he'll still come in in shape."