Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez to begin rehab assignment

NEW YORK -- New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Binghamton, marking his first game action since tearing a ligament in his left thumb over a month ago, manager Carlos Mendoza announced Tuesday.

Alvarez will catch five to seven innings in the game, Mendoza said. The rehab assignment comes after Alvarez took batting practice on the field Saturday for the first time since sustaining the injury.

"Everything is moving in the right direction, and the fact that he's now ready to go in games, that's a good sign for us," Mendoza said.

Alvarez, 22, tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb sliding into second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 19. He underwent surgery four days later. The Mets announced a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks. Tuesday marked five weeks since the surgery.

Catching pitches behind the plate will be the biggest test in Alvarez's return to games, said David Stearns, the team's president of baseball operations. Alvarez will wear a brace on the thumb when playing defense and hitting.

"You can simulate what this is going to be like from the hitting perspective in the cage with velo machines, on the field with BP," Stearns said. "The added complication here when you're a catcher with this injury is how it's going to feel to receive a baseball. That's the hurdle and we won't really know until he gets out there, but everything is going really well so far."

Alvarez, a former consensus top-five prospect, was batting .236 with one home run and a .652 OPS in 16 games at the time of the injury. He hit .209 with 25 home runs in 123 games while impressing defensively as a rookie last season.

Without him, Mets have gone 11-22 while their catchers have collectively ranked in the bottom five in the majors at the position in batting average, home runs, OPS and wRC+.