PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- These Mets infielders have grown accustomed to pain. That's why they're so willing to play through it.

Second baseman Jose Valentin decided on Wednesday to forego an anti-inflammatory shot for a pinched nerve in his neck, opting instead to remain on his current program of medicine and rest. On the same night, backup infielder Ruben Gotay played in his first Grapefruit League game since spraining his right ankle earlier this month, batting and fielding despite pain in the ankle.

"It's going to take a couple of days for me to be comfortable," Gotay said. "It's the first time I played, so hopefully it will feel better over the next couple days."

Gotay's injury will heal, probably in time for him to make the Opening Day roster -- and playing on Wednesday night marked a major step in that direction. Yet Valentin's condition remains far more serious. He tossed around the idea of an injection, and possibly even surgery, on Wednesday -- anything to extend his career.

Valentin, coming off an offseason operation to repair a partially torn ACL in his right knee, entered Spring Training unsure if he could rehabilitate quickly enough to crack the Mets' Opening Day roster. He passed one test when he made his Grapefruit League debut last week, but quickly suffered another malady when he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

Put on a regimen of anti-inflammatory pills over the past four days, Valentin worked out on Wednesday for the first time this week, and did so -- naturally -- despite constant discomfort. After meeting with team doctors, however, he decided against an injection to dull that pain. Though he left room to change his mind if the soreness persists, for now, Valentin will continue to play as often as he is able.

"I'm going to just hold on and finish my pills," Valentin said. "If it gets worse or stays the same, then I'll go for the shot. But if everything just keeps getting better and better, I'm just going to suck it up. I'm going to go for it until I can't take it anymore."

Other Mets -- namely, those with guaranteed roster spots -- weren't quite so willing to play through pain. Catcher Brian Schneider, recovering from a strained right hamstring, attempted a return to the field on Wednesday, then decided better of it.

"The season's so close," Schneider said. "I don't want to do anything stupid."