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Schneider returns to Mets' lineup

Schneider returns to Mets' lineup

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Brian Schneider's first steps were slow.

Though that wasn't by design -- Schneider simply couldn't hit the ball out of the infield on Saturday -- it was a comfort nonetheless for his strained right hamstring. That muscle had already sidelined him for the most recent 10 Mets games, so on Saturday, Schneider was far more interested in comfort than he was in success.

"Even when I ran today, everything felt good," Schneider said. "I didn't feel it one bit -- not a twinge, nothing. It was a good day in that respect."

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Schneider's good days have been limited lately, with that hamstring preventing him from doing just about everything that big league catchers are supposed to do. Excluding some time spent in Minor League camp, he hadn't hit, and excluding some bullpen sessions, he hadn't caught much, either. Most troubling, he hadn't even run until late this week.

That's why the Mets craned their collective necks on Saturday, when -- for the first time in a live game since March 10 -- Schneider almost did all three. He hit, he caught, and if he hadn't smashed hard-hit grounders to second base in each of his two at-bats, he would have been forced to run. Instead, the velocity of his grounders -- coupled with his own slow gait -- made Schneider an easy target at first base. So there was no longer any reason to run. A light jog would do just fine.

"These games are important, but at the same time, getting hurt -- it's not worth it," Schneider said. "But I'm going to be back there every day. I'm not going to be asking not to play."

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More important from Schneider's perspective -- and certainly from the perspective of the Mets, who acquired him as a defensive specialist -- was his ability to catch. And so he squatted for five innings in all on Saturday, teaming with Oliver Perez for the first time since joining the team.

With that performance, too, Schneider said he was pleased. Although Perez allowed four home runs -- and came within inches of allowing five -- both pitcher and catcher swore those mistakes had nothing to do with miscommunication. They were solely the fault of Perez.

"I was just missing my spots, and that happens," Perez said. "If you miss a lot of pitches, they can hit you hard. That's why it's Spring Training."

It's a sentiment echoed by so many of these Mets during Spring Training. As long as they still call Port St. Lucie, Fla., home, then there's still reason to believe that the Mets can recover from whatever ailments continue to vex them.

It is precisely why Schneider wasn't worried about the fact that his two at-bats on Saturday brought his Grapefruit League total to a whopping seven. There's still plenty of time, he says, even while the clock keeps ticking.

"You won't hear any excuses from me that I didn't get enough at-bats," Schneider said. "I feel OK, and you can't do anything about it now. It's done with, it's over. You can't get those at-bats back now."

Nor can he find more time to spend with his pitchers. Before Saturday, Schneider had yet to catch Perez in a Grapefruit League game -- and he still hasn't caught Pedro Martinez in one, either. No matter. On Saturday, he took quite a few steps in the right direction.

Even if those steps were slow.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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