Former top prospect hopes health is in future

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Reese Havens is past the days of entering Spring Training expecting to be healthy. The former top prospect understands now that he will never quite be 100 percent.

"I'm going to have back problems," Havens said. "It's just, I've learned how to try to stay on top of my back with doing core [workouts] and stretching and stuff. That's just what I've got to do."

Do not mistake that reality check for a lack of confidence. Havens, 26, spent this offseason training at home in South Carolina for the first time since college, focusing on core strength while maintaining a regular regimen of baseball activities. He dabbled with Pilates.

A lesser player may have already retired, considering the endless string of core injuries that plagued Havens since the Mets drafted him four picks after Ike Davis in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. But the second baseman has hit well when healthy, posting a .978 OPS in '10 and an .828 mark in '11.

Only last year did his production suffer, when Havens' continued back issues resulted in a .691 OPS at Double-A Binghamton.

The second baseman is likely ticketed for Binghamton again to start this year, provided the Mets do not decide to push him to Triple-A Las Vegas -- a more age-appropriate level.

"I'm always optimistic coming in," Havens said. "Last year, I wasn't able to work out like I did this year and I had some doubts about where my back was at coming in. And I still know I'm going to have to stay on top of it. But just the quality offseason training that I had makes me a little more confident this year than in other years."