PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets' third base depth chart is suddenly not so deep.
With David Wright already uncertain for Opening Day, Justin Turner sprained his right ankle Saturday while filling in at third base for the Mets. Catching his spike on the lip of the infield grass as he attempted to corral Marlins outfielder Justin Ruggiano's infield single, Turner stumbled to the ground and remained there several moments. He eventually limped off under his own power.
An initial examination at Tradition Field revealed a right ankle sprain, which Turner classified as "not too bad." His limp had largely disappeared by the middle innings, even before Turner left the complex for precautionary X-rays at a local hospital.
With Wright shut down from physical activity for the next 3-5 days, Turner had been the leading candidate to replace him at third base. Manager Terry Collins said earlier that he planned to give Turner significant playing time at the position because second base had been his primary defensive home this spring.
But now that Wright and Turner are both sidelined, Zach Lutz and Brandon Hicks are the main candidates to take over at third.
"You can't get discouraged," Collins said. "You can't get down. You've got to get yourself playing for the next day. If [Turner] can't play tomorrow, we've got to find somebody else."
Wright, who strained a left intercostal muscle during the World Baseball Classic, was scheduled to return to Mets camp Saturday evening. But he will not attempt any physical activity until at least early next week, putting his Opening Day availability in doubt.
The primary third baseman when Wright missed two months with a stress fracture in his lower back in 2011, Turner hit .264 with one home run during Wright's absence. Given far less playing time a year ago, he hit .269 with two home runs in 171 plate appearances all season.
Turner appeared at third base just 11 times last year, but earned significant experience at the position during Spring Training and winter ball. Asked earlier Saturday how he felt about potentially replacing Wright, Turner shrugged.
"Someone's got to do it if he's not there," he said.
But if Wright and Turner are both absent, as Collins noted, someone else must man the position. That may be Lutz, who is batting .344 this spring and will start at the hot corner Sunday. A third baseman throughout most of his time in the Minors, Lutz has recently played more first base and outfield in an attempt to increase his versatility; with Wright under contract through 2020, Lutz understands that his future in the organization may depend upon his ability to play other positions.
"It's hard having someone like David Wright go down due to injury," Lutz said. "I just prepare every day to go out there. If [Collins] calls my name to go out there and play third base, I've got to feel prepared that I can go out there and do the job right."
Francisco focused on healthy season over quick recovery
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Frank Francisco understands that being ready for Opening Day may no longer be a realistic goal. Instead, Francisco is trying to prepare himself for something at least resembling a full, healthy summer.
"I just want to be ready for the season," Francisco said Saturday, after throwing off a mound for the third time this spring. "Whenever I go up there, stay up there. I don't want to rush it and come back down here. I'd rather take one or two days extra and be sure that I'm going to be up there as soon as possible for the season, rather than rush and blow it."
Francisco's mound work was delayed a month this spring due to inflammation in his pitching elbow, a byproduct of the surgery he underwent this winter to remove a bone spur. He first stepped on the mound last weekend, throwing 20 pitches at less than the traditional 60 feet, six inches.
Saturday marked the first time Francisco had thrown a full bullpen session, delivering 31 pitches -- including breaking balls -- off a mound. But he estimated that he only did so at around 70-percent effort, still feeling "a sting" in his arm when he pitches. Francisco plans to take two days off, then throw another bullpen session Tuesday at around 80 percent effort. If all goes well, he will appear in games before the end of spring.
"I feel like every time I throw off the mound, the next time out I can give a little more effort and I feel less soreness," Francisco said.
Assuming Francisco is not ready to pitch on Opening Day, Bobby Parnell will take over as closer.
Murphy sits with general fatigue
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Originally scheduled to play in a Minor League game Saturday, second baseman Daniel Murphy instead sat out with what the Mets called a case of general fatigue.
Murphy had played the field in a Minor League game Friday in his continued rehab from a strained right intercostal muscle. He was scheduled to ramp up his program even further this weekend, but instead limited his Saturday activities to fundamental drills and batting practice.
Regardless, the Mets still believe Murphy can make his Grapefruit League debut in enough time to prepare for Opening Day.
"It wasn't a setback," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Just a little fatigue, so we sat him out today."
• Hitting coach Dave Hudgens will return to Venezuela to manage Leones del Caracas for the 2013-'14 Winter League season, the Mets announced Saturday. Hudgens managed Caracas to a national championship in '10, before stepping down when the Mets named him hitting coach prior to the '11 season.
• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (bone bruise, left knee) continues to participate in most baseball activities. Once he runs the bases in workouts, he will be able to proceed to Minor League games.