Mets OF Michael Conforto recently began hitting off a tee and said he's "actually ahead of schedule" as he returns from shoulder surgery.
Conforto said he was cleared by doctors at the end of January to start a swinging progression, and that his return could be earlier or later than the May 1 date that was projected by GM Sandy Alderson during the offseason.
"Timetable is fluid," Conforto said on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. "As of right now, I'm swinging, I'm hitting off the tee. So that's good. I've been waiting forever to be able to do that, and it feels great. Really makes you understand how much you love it."
"There's the May 1st date, and that kind of gives me an idea," he continued. "As a competitor, it's tough for me not to look at that date and want to get out there before that."
"They're helping me understand I've got to be the player that I was and that I know I am gonna be again," Conforto said about the team's medical staff. "And that comes from doing things the right way. Going through the progression."
Calling the injury "kind of a freak incident," Conforto said he's been able to do all the things he did in the past and that everything has been smooth.
Conforto dislocated his shoulder toward the end of last season, which required surgery to repair the posterior capsule. The initial diagnosis was that it would require at least a six-month recovery.
In advance of Conforto beginning the season on the disabled list, the Mets acquired Jay Bruce. The team is expected to begin the season with Yoenis Cespedes, either Brandon Nimmo or Juan Lagares, and Bruce in the outfield from left to right.
When Conforto returns, he is expected to play center field, and he said he feels comfortable there.
"I'm excited about being in center field. It's definitely a lot of fun out there. I enjoy playing there. I feel very, very comfortable. I understand I'm not Billy Hamilton out there, but I think I get good jumps on the ball. I'm quick -- I've got a quick first step. If I make my reads and really work on it -- which I have been -- I can be more than able to fill that position and play it well."
Conforto, who made the All Star team last year for the first time in his career, had been hitting .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs and 68 RBI in 109 games before injuring his shoulder.
Watch Conforto's full scrum with reporters below...