Spring opener will feature youthful competition

Most of Mets' Opening Day lineup set to play Saturday in first home game

Spring opener will feature youthful competition

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Terry Collins likes to joke that veteran outfielder Yoenis Cespedes doesn't need to bother acquiring a road gray uniform this spring. David Wright, with his back and neck issues, won't be making any long bus rides in March. Same goes for Neil Walker and Lucas Duda.

That means that when the Mets open their Grapefruit League schedule with a 1:05 p.m. ET game Friday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., they'll do so with a group of younger players fighting for jobs and playing time.

Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores, Travis d'Arnaud and starting pitcher Seth Lugo are the biggest names who will travel 2 1/2 hours across the state for a game at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox's Fenway Park Spring Training replica. Once that crew departs the game, top prospects such as Amed Rosario will take their turn.

Top Prospects: Rosario, NYM

"I'm bringing anybody above the number of 26," Collins quipped, referring to the Spring Training tradition of giving young players high uniform numbers.

Boston's starting lineup includes top prospect Andrew Benintendi, as well as Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. Left-hander Henry Owens will pitch.

The game is the first of 35 for the Mets in Florida, followed by a March 31 exhibition against the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The Mets will open their season April 3 against the Braves at Citi Field.

"It's time," Collins said. "I think we've got to get guys out there and start playing."

The Mets' Spring Training home opener, scheduled for Saturday against the Nationals at newly renamed First Data Field, should feature a bigger group of household names. Every member of the Mets' projected Opening Day lineup should appear in Saturday's game except for Walker, who has requested an extra day to prepare himself. Wright is tentatively scheduled to play as the designated hitter, rather than the third baseman.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.