Mets' Havens Gets Late Start This Spring





PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—The trouble with the Mets' second baseman of the future is that he can't seem to remain on the field in the present.

After spending the offseason training with teammates Ike Davis and Josh Thole in Arizona, Reese Havens lockers next to them inside the big league clubhouse at Digital Domain Park. While the 25-year-old is older than both—by just eight days in Thole's case—he has yet to join them in Flushing.

"If we can get him in the lineup, he's going to play in the big leagues," said Terry Collins, the Mets' major league manager and former minor league field coordinator.

A first-round pick in the 2008 draft out of South Carolina, Havens continues to battle a seemingly never-ending string of injuries that have become his most definable characteristic, a concern that overrides any questions about his actual baseball ability.

The most recent ailment centers on stiffness in his lower back, which limited him during the first week of spring training. He received a cortisone shot on the day of the Grapefruit League opener, after being unable to take part in drills and displaying no signs of progress in his rehabilitation.

Havens hit .289/.372/.455 in 61 games for Double-A Binghamton in 2011, and the Mets had ticketed him for the Arizona Fall League following the season. They decided to pull him back, however, and let him prepare for 2012 because they did not want to tax his body.

"We just wanted to give him some time to recharge his batteries," vice president for scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said.

Havens profiled as a polished player coming out of college, one ready to contribute quickly as a shortstop with deceptive power and appreciable on-base skills. Instead, injuries have kept Havens down.

He has dealt with elbow, hand, quadriceps, groin and back trouble in recent years. He played just 32 games in 2010, and he required surgery to remove part of a rib. He never has played more than 97 games in a season.

"It's frustrating," Collins said. "Because we all know what kind of talent he has."

METAMORPHOSES

• Bullpen hopeful Robert Carson experienced a bump in the road during the first week of spring camp when the lefthander strained his left intercostal muscle.

• Righthander Brant Rustich, a second-round pick in 2007, retired because of continued trouble with nerve damage in his right shoulder. He missed all of last season with a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome.