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Mets ace Senga faces hitters for the first time since his shoulder injury

Kodai Senga New York Mets Kodai Senga - The Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Mets right-hander Kodai Senga faced hitters Monday for the first time since hurting his shoulder, throwing 21 pitches of live batting practice against minor leaguers at Citi Field.

Senga told reporters he'll face batters two more times before beginning a minor league rehab assignment. He said he thinks he'll be able to return from the injured list right around when he's eligible on May 27, or soon afterward.

New York's top starter, Senga has been sidelined since early in spring training. He is on the 60-day IL with a right shoulder capsule strain.

Mets manager Carlos Mendoza was encouraged by Senga's mound session.

“The way the ball was coming out, there was no hesitation. He was just letting it loose, using all his pitches,” Mendoza said. “Since he went down, the thing that I've been saying is, how's he going to bounce back? The biggest thing is tomorrow and the following day. But so far, he looked pretty sharp today.”

The 31-year-old Senga is scheduled to face hitters again Friday, but Mendoza said the Mets will be flexible and give him an extra day of rest anytime he might need it throughout his progression.

Senga went 12-7 with a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts for the Mets last year, making the NL All-Star team during his first season in the majors after arriving from Japan. He struck out 202 batters in 166 1/3 innings, finishing runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year and seventh in Cy Young Award voting.

Senga is in the second season of a $75 million, five-year contract he signed with the Mets after pitching in Japan for 11 seasons.