Notes: Sanchez returns to action

Notes: Sanchez returns to action

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If the Mets have visions of Duaner Sanchez returning to his 2006 form, then Saturday was as encouraging a sign as they've seen to date.

"I was 97 percent of what you watched in '06," Sanchez said.

And for now, that will have to do.

"I could say 100," he said, "but I don't want to be crazy."

The Mets will take 97 percent, of course, as they'll take pretty much anything from Sanchez. Saturday marked his return to the mound after more than a week's hiatus with what he and the Mets consistently referred to as "general soreness." The time off, while discouraging, may have helped Sanchez breeze through his one inning vs. the Marlins with little problem. Though he walked one batter, Sanchez struck out another, flaunting a devastating changeup to go along with his improving fastball.

It was almost akin to that 2006 season, in which Sanchez finished with a 2.60 ERA.

"It felt great," he said. "My fastball was there. I can let it go."

What's more important, however, is what happens next. Sanchez seemed fine during his last outing, but ultimately needed eight days to recover. Should he have designs on being fully ready for Opening Day, he'll first need to prove that he can pitch on back-to-back days in Spring Training. It's a thought that doesn't seem to worry him.

"This is regular," Sanchez said of his schedule. "It's probably different than somebody else because I have to do [some throwing] in the middle, but that's about it. It is regular."

Comeback kid: Jose Valentin will make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday, two weeks earlier than he originally expected.

"I haven't been in the field for seven, eight months," Valentin said. "I'm not really looking for results. I just want to get used to the game again. It would be nice to get a hit or something, but I really just want to test my knee."

That knee is what almost ended his time in baseball. After partially tearing the ACL in his right knee last summer, Valentin underwent what could have been career-ending surgery to repair the ligament, then spent his offseason rehabbing back into game shape.

Valentin brought a first baseman's glove to camp and spent the last two days shagging fly balls in the outfield. Though he wasn't sure exactly where he would fit into manager Willie Randolph's lineup card on Sunday, he said he expected it to be either at first or second base.

"I just have to be positive," Valentin said. "This is not the first time I've played the game of baseball -- but it is the first time I've played coming off major surgery."

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Back in business: Ryan Church's concussion symptoms had subsided enough by Saturday afternoon that he was cleared to play for the first time since last week's outfield collision with Marlon Anderson. Church started in right field and made his two scheduled plate appearances, finishing with two singles.

"I still felt kind of weird," Church said. "But I think that's just because of my brain getting jarred around."

Church said he wouldn't need any additional time off.

What a relief: On Friday, the day the Mets officially made their first round of cuts, reliever Steven Register walked into the clubhouse at Tradition Field to see his locker manned by someone else. Then he did what any rookie would do. He panicked.

Turns out Register wasn't cut after all. Clubhouse attendants had simply moved him four lockers to the right, consolidating space after the Mets cut 13 other players.

Mets bits: Catcher Brian Schneider homered in his first spring appearance since tweaking his right hamstring last week. "I honestly didn't feel it at all," he said. ... Fourth outfielder Endy Chavez (left ankle) made his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday, finishing 1-for-3 with a single and a run scored. ... Register allowed his first four runs of spring in two-thirds of an inning of relief. ... Top prospect Fernando Martinez had two hits for the split-squad playing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., against the Orioles, raising his spring average to .333.

Coming up: Valentin is the latest addition to a growing roster of healthy players, which the Mets will showcase when they host the Astros on Sunday at Tradition Field. John Maine is set to start for the Mets, with relievers Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman to follow in the 1:10 p.m. ET start. The Astros will counter with right-hander Jack Cassel.

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