40-man roster crunch looming

Injuries likely will force the Mets to remove more players from the 40-man roster and expose them to waivers than desired. But, a team official said, the required maneuvering, while potentially somewhat "painful," likely will not strongly influence which players make the final spots on the Opening Day roster -- assuming the required cuts are limited to three or four.

"I think we can find some guys," the official said.

The Mets almost assuredly will need to free at least two 40-man roster spots -- for the lefty-hitting backup outfielder, since neither Mike Baxter nor Adam Loewen is on the roster, and for Tim Byrdak's temporary replacement as lefty reliever, since neither Garrett Olson nor Josh Edgin (nor Daniel Herrera, for that matter) is on the roster.

D.J. Carrasco is not going to pitch in a minor league game Sunday, as was pitching coach Dan Warthen's hope, because of continued right ankle discomfort. And Carrasco is projecting himself to land on the disabled list to open the season. If the Mets select Miguel Batista to round out the bullpen with Carrasco inactive, that means a third required 40-man roster cut. Chris Schwinden, the alternative to Batista in Carrasco's absence, is on the 40-man roster. (Again, though, the team official said already being on the 40-man roster is not likely to tip decisions.)

The good news is Scott Hairston is making progress from a strained left oblique. Hairston avoiding the DL to open the season would alleviate the potential need for another 40-man roster spot to be freed. Hairston said he felt "great" after hitting Friday off a tee and with underhand tosses for the first time since the injury. He plans to repeat that activity with more intensity today.

If Hairston or Andres Torres is not ready, it would be ideal if Triple-A center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis could take over, since he is on the 40-man roster. However, Nieuwenhuis has an oblique injury in minor league camp. Natural center fielder Matt den Dekker, a lefty hitter who was pulled back into major league camp, is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Vinny Rottino, the primary righty-hitting alternative to Hairston in the outfield. Lefty-hitting Jordany Valdespin is on the roster, but he's an infielder just getting exposed to the outfield.

So which 40-man roster players would be vulnerable?

These players may want to hold their breaths: right-handers Jeremy Hefner and Armando Rodriguez and infielder Josh Satin.

Beyond that, it would have to be young players. Robert Carson was just added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so that would be an odd fourth choice if required. Others on the 40-man roster include Reese Havens and Zach Lutz.