Mets expect Juan Lagares to return Friday

CHICAGO -- Reigning Glove Glove center fielder Juan Lagares spends a third straight day on the bench Thursday, but his absence should not last much longer. New York Mets manager Terry Collins expects Lagares to reenter the lineup Friday, for the series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.

Lagares suffered a strain in his right armpit area nine days ago, while avoiding left fielder Michael Cuddyer and making a dazzling catch on Baltimore's Everth Cabrera. The discomfort intensified early in the road trip, and has forced Lagares from the lineup since Tuesday to allow it to calm.

Collins figured with the Mets playing a day game Thursday at Wrigley Field, he might as well let Lagares have another full day off to let the injury calm.

"Last night obviously was cold and he was still a little stiff, but he felt better," Collins said. "You're just saying, 'Geez, nine hours from now we've got to be back here. How much better can it be in nine hours? ... If you give him 30 hours, there might be a significant improvement. Will it be 100 percent [Friday]? Probably not. But it will be a hecukva lot more improved that I don't know if he'll aggravate it as much as he would if he dove for a ball today and jarred himself again."

Curtis Granderson mans center field for the first time this season in the series finale against the Chicago Cubs. Granderson made 11 starts at the position in 2014.

With the Mets facing left-hander Travis Wood, John Mayberry Jr. enters the outfield in Lagares' absence. Mayberry is 0 for his last 19 and is hitting .103 (3 for 29) on the season.

Lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis started the previous two games in center field minus Lagares. Nieuwenhuis is hitting .088 (3 for 34) this season.