PHILADELPHIA -- When Juan Lagares dove for a line drive June 15 at Citi Field, fracturing his left thumb on a play that sidelined him for two months, he was in the midst of one of the better stretches of his career. Batting .379 in nine games leading up to his injury, Lagares was showing flashes of what the Mets thought he could be when they signed him to a four-year, $23 million contract extension before the 2015 season.
Now that Lagares is back from the DL, activated Thursday to take Jay Bruce's spot on the Mets' roster, the team hopes he can rekindle some of that success.
"He was playing very, very well when he dove for that ball," manager Terry Collins said. "I hope that when the time comes, when we're done here this year, that he goes back to the Dominican [Republic] and gets himself in tip-top shape again, works on a couple things that he's been working on with the hitting guys.
"If this guy clicks offensively -- and I'm not saying Justin Turner kind of stuff, I'm just talking about .250, .265 -- he'll be a great player. Because he can really play defense."
Lagares' aggressive defensive style, however, has resulted in myriad injuries over the years, from multiple thumb sprains and muscle tears to a right elbow injury that pushed him to the brink of Tommy John surgery in 2015. When healthy, he has been one of the game's best defensive center fielders, winning a Gold Glove in '14. But Lagares has played in just 126 games the past two seasons.
"That's the way I play," Lagares said. "When I'm between those lines, I just try to do the best I can every time."
Overall, Lagares was batting .269 with two home runs and two stolen bases in 47 games prior to his injury. He will return to his usual role as a regular starter against left-handed pitchers, and a late-game defensive replacement for Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.