NEW YORK -- Acknowledging that his situation was more perilous than he had suspected, Brian Schneider came to work Wednesday for the first time in seven days, unsure of when he would be able to resume playing.
The Mets catcher, hospitalized for six days and nights because of a staph infection in his left thumb, rejoined his teammates shortly before noon on Wednesday, saying his thumb felt significantly better but staying aware that the infection had not left his body.
Schneider still was taking antibiotics -- orally, after days of intravenous treatment -- and the sensitivity and swelling in his thumb were greatly diminished.
"It's on its way out," Schneider said.
But he will not return to active duty, he said, until the soreness is gone. The Mets were hopeful that time would come Friday, allowing them to assign reserve catcher Gustavo Molina to the Minor Leagues and activate left fielder Moises Alou. Schneider was never assigned to the disabled list.
Such assignment still could happen if his thumb continues to be an issue. The assignment would be retroactive to Thursday, though, so he would be made unavailable for fewer than 15 days.
Schneider said he had the thumb lanced Monday to relieve pressure and to allow pus to drain. The incision was small and required no sutures to close it.
"They could have opened it up and let it heal from the inside out," Schneider said, "but this way I'm able to get back quicker."
He was sedated while the procedure was done. The stay in the Hospital for Special Services in Manhattan was his first hospital experience.
Schneider had developed a blister in the thumb two weekends ago when the Mets played in Philadelphia, but thought little of it. He felt soreness for the first time on Tuesday in Chicago, and played in considerable pain Wednesday, when the Mets were in Washington. He contacted trainer Ray Ramirez on Thursday morning after the swelling and pain had increased. He said the top of his thumb might have swelled to twice its normal size.
The cause of the infection is unknown. The Mets' doctors told Schneider that the open blister and his mitt may have worked in tandem.
The club also told Schneider it didn't want him to play until the pain was completely gone.
"I'd try to play," Schneider said, "but they don't want my thumb to be subjected to the pounding of catching until it's completely better. Right now, I couldn't catch. But maybe in a day or two."
The Mets didn't say -- but Alou did -- that Friday was the day they want him to return. The club said it hasn't determined the course of action it will take if Schneider isn't able to play then.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.