Mets' Francisco Álvarez progressing in recovery from thumb surgery

NEW YORK -- Francisco Álvarez checked off another box Saturday in his return from tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb last month.

The New York Mets catcher took batting practice on the field Saturday for the first time since injuring the thumb sliding into second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 19. He took more than 20 swings before the Mets hosted the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

Asked if he took the swings at full strength, Álvarez pointed out that he hit a ball 115 mph. That, he joked, said it all.

"I'm very happy and excited to be back on the field," Álvarez, 22, said. "I'm very happy with how everything is going."

Álvarez, who underwent surgery on the thumb April 23, explained he is still a few steps away from going on a rehab assignment. The next checkpoints include hitting off a pitching machine to face velocity before facing live pitching and catching bullpens.

The Mets announced a six-to-eight-week timeline for Álvarez following the surgery. Tuesday marks five weeks.

"I don't know if it's a few more weeks or days," Álvarez said. "It's really how is everything going? If I keep feeling good, if I keep doing good, if I don't feel nothing in my thumb, my batting cage is feeling good, maybe it's a couple of weeks, a couple of days."

Álvarez said he sought out advice from Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Pérez, a fellow Venezuelan who sustained the same UCL thumb injury in 2022. Two years later, Pérez, one of the most productive hitters in the majors this season, told Álvarez about the recovery process and the need to take his time.

The Mets, meanwhile, have had some of the worst production in the majors from the catcher position without Álvarez. Mets catchers Tomas Nido and Omar Narvaez have combined to for a .194 batting average since April 20, the fourth-worst mark in the majors. Their collective 38 wRC+ ranks 28th, ahead of only the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.