Andres Torres took his first step towards making his return to the Mets lineup on Tuesday; he participated in light outfield drills in Port St. Lucie, testing out that strained calf he injured on Opening Day against the Braves. With Torres on the shelf, rookie sensation Kirk Nieuwenhuis is trying to show the coaching staff and the rest of the Flushing Faithful the future is now, but manager Terry Collins told the media that once their center fielder is ready to return, the job will be his.
Even though Captain Kirk has been able to give some life to an uncertain Mets lineup at the time of Torres’ injury, Collins is more concerned with continuing to get their young outfielder consistent reps at the minor league level. In his ten games with New York
since his debut on April 7th, he has shown that he can handle Major League pitching (.321/.387/.429), but he will unfortunately most likely be the odd man out at this stage in his career.
Collins made a good point in speaking about the return of Torres; without him in the lineup, the Mets mostly are a station-to-station team, with no real threat to steal bases. Torres is able to instill some fear into opposing pitchers and catchers when healthy, and that’s one of the reasons why Alderson made the trade to bring him over once the Angel Pagan experience was over in Flushing. Nieuwenhuis looks to have a bright career ahead of him, but baseball can be a numbers game, and since he has minor league options left, instead of playing sparingly at the Major League level, it would be better for his development to play every night in Buffalo instead.
This situation reminds me of the Ruben Tejada situation when he was filling in for Jose Reyes last year; Tejada played very well during one of Reyes’ late season DL trips, and even though he deserved to stay up with the Big league team, it didn’t make sense for him to get an at-bat here or there every three days, when he could play every night at the Triple-A level and continue to develop. That decision seems to be paying off right now, as Tejada is off to a solid start (.262/.326/.405).
So, don’t be frustrated when Captain Kirk heads back down to Triple-A upon Torres’ return; he deserves to stay with the team, but it wouldn’t make any sense for his long-term development. I’m looking forward to seeing Nieuwenhuis patrol center field for the Mets in the near future, but the foundation must be built before the rest of the house. Right now, the finishing touches are being put on the foundation of a beautiful house that Mets fans will hopefully be able to enjoy for years to come.