VIERA, Fla. -- Two days after Justin Verlander struck Jordany Valdespin in the groin with a 94-mph fastball, the Mets held their utility player out of the lineup for a routine day of rest. Valdespin learned his lesson the hard way, he said, and planned to wear protection under his uniform in the future.
"I never use a cup, but I've got to use it because I'm really scared of the ball hitting me," Valdespin said. "All positions I have to use it, because you never know. The ball can take a bad hop and hit me again, so I don't want to get into trouble."
Mets manager Terry Collins was mystified to learn that Valdespin, a natural infielder, was unprotected when he squared to bunt against Verlander during Monday's game. Valdespin said he has never worn a cup throughout his baseball career, even as a child in the Dominican Republic.
That will change now, despite the fact that Valdespin figures to see most of his playing time in the outfield, where players typically do not wear cups. Batting .370 this spring, Valdespin has transformed from a fringe option to a leading candidate to crack the Opening Day roster.
Johan clears air with Mets: 'We're in this together'
VIERA, Fla. -- Johan Santana broke his silence on Tuesday to proclaim harmony with the Mets, saying he is "on the same page" with the team as he continues to overcome his left shoulder weakness.
"We are in this together," Santana told reporters in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "We want to do this together from top to bottom."
Referencing a recent conversation with general manager Sandy Alderson, Santana said the two cleared the air over any disagreements they may have had. The two-time Cy Young Award winner seemed to take offense when Alderson criticized his unpreparedness for Spring Training earlier this month, throwing a surprise bullpen session the next day and bristling when reporters asked about it.
He and Alderson met several days ago and, according to Santana, erased any lingering ugliness. The GM described a more nuts-and-bolts discussion, saying it centered upon Santana's workout plan.
"If that was clearing the air, that was clearing the air, I guess," Alderson said.
As for the plan going forward, both Alderson and manager Terry Collins are content to let Santana dictate his own throwing program. Collins admitted that Santana is still "not too close" to returning to a mound, giving him little chance to be ready for Opening Day. But Collins did express optimism that Santana can still pitch during the first week of the season, even if he begins it on the disabled list.
"He's the only source we have as to how he feels," Collins said. "We'll see where he's at come 10 days from now."
Assuming Santana is not ready to go on April 1, Jon Niese will take the ball against the Padres at Citi Field. Should Santana miss any additional time, Jeremy Hefner is preparing to slide into the rotation.
Harvey finishes strong after in-game adjustments
VIERA, Fla. -- Matt Harvey still clearly recalls the booming home run Jayson Werth hit off him here one year ago, on a night when Space Coast Stadium seemed aptly named.
"I don't know if it's landed yet," Harvey quipped Wednesday, reflecting on the five runs he allowed in one inning against the Nationals that night.
A similar fate awaited Harvey early in his return to Viera, where Bryce Harper launched a long three-run shot over the right-field wall. But this time, Harvey recovered, retiring 12 of the final 14 batters he faced on six strikeouts, five groundouts and a flyout.
"He had a tough time here last year, so we wanted to see how he handled things in the second inning," manager Terry Collins said. "He went out there in [innings] two, three and four and pitched very well."
Harper's home run turned into nothing more than a blip for Harvey, whose spring ERA rose to 2.77 ERA, with 18 strikeouts against three walks in 13 innings. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud said Harvey's front side was "flying open" early in Wednesday's game, but the right-hander was able to correct that after the first inning.
Aside from helping Harvey, that knowledge seemed to be the latest evidence of a growing relationship between pitcher and catcher.
"I can see it a little easier than before," d'Arnaud said of Harvey's in-game adjustments.
• Second baseman Daniel Murphy (strained right intercostal muscle) plans to play in a Minor League game this weekend, with an eye toward making his Grapefruit League debut next week. Murphy has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (bone bruise in left knee) is scheduled to return to baseball activities on Thursday. Nieuwenhuis has not played since injuring his knee on March 3.