Thole has been sidelined since Phillies first baseman Ty Wigginton crashed into him at home plate during a game on May 7, resulting in a concussion. But Thole has been catching in extended spring action and has not felt any dizziness in weeks, giving the Mets optimism that his injury is behind him. He was batting .284 with one home run in 26 games prior to his concussion.
Thole's appearance behind the plate Thursday will be notable also because he will catch Chris Young, who is also inching closer to a big league return. Young, who has already made three starts for Class A St. Lucie in his road back from right shoulder surgery, will make his Buffalo debut Thursday afternoon. General manager Sandy Alderson said he could "speculate" that Young will need at least one additional Minor League start before he is ready to return to the Mets.
"It was Chris' idea to move to Buffalo, so I think from that standpoint that's a real encouraging sign," Alderson said. "He felt that he was ready to move, so we'll see how he does on Thursday."
As for the club's other injured regulars, shortstop Ruben Tejada's timetable is still unclear. But outfielder Jason Bay "is certainly getting closer," according to Alderson, and could begin playing the field soon. Bay has been limited to DH duty in extended spring games because the Mets do not want him to risk re-injuring his fractured left rib.
"It's just caution," manager Terry Collins said. "If you talk to Jason, he will be the first to tell you there's only one way he plays the outfield. When he goes after a fly ball and he needs to leave his feet, he will do that. And he's not ready to do that yet."