PORT ST. LUCIE — Starling Marte kept it simple for spring training: If he could leave with his legs stronger than when he arrived it would be a successful camp with the Mets.
With one Grapefruit League game remaining, the veteran outfielder can say he’s close to meeting his goal, after undergoing November double groin surgery that still had him in a rehab mode as spring training began.
“I just kind of listened to what the trainers told me, what to do with my recovery, and I just followed it,” Marte said Saturday at Clover Park through an interpreter. “I feel my speed is good. I have stolen a couple of bases here so I feel like the operation, it helped, it worked and it feels good.”
Marte entered play with a .711 OPS this spring and two stolen bases in 10 games.
It has left him ready for his second Opening Day with the Mets, on Thursday in Miami.
The Mets plan to have Marte play right field and most likely hitting in his familiar No. 2 hole.
He also is maybe the healthiest he has been since joining the organization.
Last year, Marte dealt with left groin discomfort throughout the season before he was bit by a pitch in September that left him with a fractured right middle finger.
Marte missed most of the final month, but returned for the Mets’ NL wild-card series loss to the Padres.
Manager Buck Showalter might have seen all he needed to earlier in the week when Marte played all nine innings in right field for the first time this spring.
“I think he is ready,” Showalter said. “He knows how important this last week is. He wanted to play nine innings and that bell is getting louder and louder.”
Marte stole 18 bases last season after leading MLB with 47 a year earlier.
He said he still considers the stolen base a part of his game and said “it’s possible” he will increase his activity on the bases this season.
“You just have to go out there and continue to try, especially now with the new [larger] bases you kind of have to make little adjustments to get good jumps,” Marte said.
Showalter was asked if he would like the 34-year-old Marte to again emerge as a top base-stealing threat.
“It’s like that 30-foot jumper — no, no, oh, good,’ ” Showalter said. “If he feels good and he’s healthy and he gets up and it doesn’t affect him … I think he will be selectively aggressive. He knows his body well. I learned quickly last year to listen to what he says. It’s thought out and there is a return for following what he says his body is telling him. There is a lot of trust there. ”
As much as Marte would have loved to represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, he realizes the smart move was to skip the event.
“I felt like I had a responsibility to my country, but I also had a responsibility to the team and we decided it was better for me to stay here and go through the proper treatment and the recovery plan so we could be ready for the season,” Marte said. “The WBC is such high energy, such high stakes, you don’t want to have any setbacks.”
Among the benefits of staying in camp was spending more time with his 12-year-old son Elian, who has shadowed him around the ballpark in recent weeks.
“It feels good to be able to have him here so he can see kind of what it is to be around big leaguers, to talk to them and just know how it is to operate in here and learning from the coaches,” Marte said. “Especially since he’s so interested in playing baseball I think it’s a good thing for him to be here instead of being home.”