PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Michael Conforto received a late-night phone call from New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who asked whether he wanted to fill an open spot as Friday's designated hitter.
"Absolutely," Conforto recalled responding. "I wasn't going to say no."
In his first big league game action since surgery on Sept. 6 to repair a tear in the posterior capsule in his left shoulder, Conforto went 1-for-4 in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis.
"It's a good way for me to kind of dip my toe into it and just focus on hitting. Maybe tomorrow we'll see what happens," the 25-year-old outfielder said.
Callaway said Conforto will play in the outfield on Saturday. The Mets have publicly projected May 1 as a target date for his return, but Callaway says Conforto is ahead of schedule.
"That's really Michael. That's probably on him more than anything, and he's feeling more and more comfortable," Callaway said.
Conforto had not played in a game since Aug. 24, when he swung through a 95 mph fastball from Arizona's Robbie Ray, collapsed and grabbed his shoulder.
"It meant a lot for the team, and it means a lot to the fans. They know that he's close. Obviously, having Michael Conforto on our roster and playing in games makes us a better team and a better organization," Callaway said. "For him to get to this point in a major league game and is able to go out and compete is a huge step. He's showing us that he's going to be ready at some point."
Conforto was hitless in three at-bats Friday against Dakota Hudson, and the lefty singled on a curveball from left-handed reliever Sean Gilmartin in the seventh.
"I know he's got that big curveball. I bailed a little bit on the first one, but I stayed in on the second one and poked it through the hole," Conforto said.
Conforto struck out on a 93 mph 3-2 fastball in the first, was retired on a weak chopper to the pitcher in the third and grounded to second in the fifth.
"I think right now I'm just a little bit late on the fastballs and a little bit more on time with the off-speed stuff," Conforto said.
He homered twice Wednesday in a simulated game, both off southpaw prospects. Conforto played seven innings in center field Thursday and hit for the cycle in his first four at-bats against Houston's top minor league club on a back field.
"After yesterday, I felt like I was ready to jump in there," the Seattle area native said.
Conforto set career bests last year with a .279 batting average, 27 homers and 68 RBIs.
"I've felt pretty good at the plate the last couple of days, played some defense, ran around and done some things, slid into home yesterday and everything went well," he said.
The Mets optioned C Tomas Nido and P Hansel Robles to the minors. Nido, 23, hit .300 in 14 games and could play with either fellow backstop Jose Lobaton in Triple-A Las Vegas or in Double-A Binghamton. Robles, 27, was a key reliever in 2015 and 2016 but slipped in 46 appearances for New York last season. He posted a 9.26 E.R.A. in 11.2 innings this spring. RHP Rafael Montero (torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm) will travel to New York this weekend and meet with doctors on Monday to decide when to have Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old hurt the elbow in Tuesday's game and noticed swelling the next morning. Montero had a 9.00 ERA was out of options. He will spend the season on the disabled list.