In watching the Mets take on the Pirates in the first of their three game set last night in Pittsburgh, my girlfriend and I were enjoying the game in my living room. When freshly recalled utility player Vinny Rottino approached the plate for his first at-bat of the night, she promptly, and understandably so, asked, “Who the heck is this guy?!” Well, if he continues his hot streak that started in Triple-A this weekend, we could be looking at our next super utility man, our first one since Joe McEwing.
Over the weekend, New York promoted Chris Schwinden to the Major League club for the second time this season when Miguel Batistawas placed on the DL with a back injury, but that left Terry Collins’ bench one player short while they were in Toronto playing the Blue Jays. So, Schwinden was optioned back to Triple-A Buffalo in favor of Vinny Rottino. The 32-year-old utility player has
literally played everywhere for the Mets between the regular season and spring training. He’s played all three outfield positions, catcher, first base, and third base. During his last two games in Buffalo, Collins requested that Rottino get behind the plate because he’s a little concerned about Rob Johnson‘s jammed left thumb.
Josh Thole is now down in Florida progressing in rehab and getting closer to a return, but Collins wants someone completely healthy backing up Mike Nickeas for the time being. Rottino is coming back for his second tour with the Mets this year, and went 0-4 in his first time up with the Amazins; he has had some MLB experience in the past with the Marlins and Brewers, but this is his first taste of MLB action since 2008. In Buffalo, Rottino is currently hitting .307 for the Bisons, and is coming off a three-homer game on Saturday.
Even though he only went 1-for-3 last night in the loss to Pittsburgh, I was very impressed with Rottino’s approach at the plate; he looked very comfortable for not being with the Mets at this level all that long. He was very balanced and displayed a short, compact stroke when he laced a single into left field during the second inning of last night’s contest. I immediately like him on the bench because that gives Terry Collins another right-handed option to use for situational purposes late in games, but his versatility is what makes Rottino most valuable to the Mets this year.
Although he doesn’t always play first base and he was subbed in favor of a defensive replacement last night, he looked more comfortable working around the bag than Justin Turner has. With Ike Davis struggling as much as he is, it’s surprising that there wasn’t a more natural first baseman on the bench to spell Davis when he needs a day off. With his immediate future hanging in the balance over this next stretch of games, the presence of Rottino must make Collins feel a little better, knowing he can keep Cedeno and Turner in the middle infield, and he not only has a backup first baseman, but a backup catcher, and outfielder as well. It’s always nice to have options. So, if Rottino stays hot, he could find a home as the Mets super-utility guy, bringing back those awesome memories of McEwing. Time will tell.