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Put Nieuwenhuis In Coach, He’s (Possibly) Ready To Play

Posted By Howard Megdal On March 21, 2012 @ 10:02 am In Spring Training,Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

So the Mets nearly had their Opening Day lineup available and deployed last night, with the exception of David Wright. But even that limited victory lasted just two innings, with center fielder Andres Torres leaving due to an injured calf. He’ll take the next few days off and then re-evaluate.

It’s a forgotten part of analyzing the Torres-for-Angel Pagan swap that Torres played just 112 games last season. So even if his production recovers to 2010 levels, there are no guarantees that he’ll be available on an everyday basis. Moreover, the alternatives to take his place: apparently, non-center fielders Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, who hasn’t played the position since 2004, and Jordany Valdespin, who is neither an outfielder by trade nor has the bat to carry the position, are the contestants.

Here’s what I’d like to see: Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Look, there’s no telling what you get with Nieuwenhuis. This bright prospect missed most of last year with shoulder surgery. But his slash line in Triple-A for 221 plate appearances before he got hurt was a robust .298/.403/.505. And here’s the beauty part: he already plays center field!

There’s another component to this, though: it gives fans something to get excited about in the regular lineup. A bona fide prospect’s development isn’t something this team has a lot of among position players, either on the current roster or about to hit New York. Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda are getting regular playing time this year, but both did last year as well. Nieuwenhuis is a shiny new toy. And Mets fans, frankly, deserve a present.

Would this be a good reason by itself? Absolutely not. But holy cow, look at the alternatives. This is a win on the field now, and in the stands for everyone who brings their kiddies and their wives. No guarantee, but worth a try.

UPDATE: As multiple readers have pointed out, Nieuwenhuis has an oblique injury [1] himself. He is, however, scheduled to hit today, so the idea is he could get back in the near future. But man, when it rains, all the Mets slip and fall.

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[1] Nieuwenhuis has an oblique injury: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/40548/nieuwenhuis-still-on-mend-unavailable

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