July 5, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) after he strikes out to end the 6th against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Mike Baxter Set to Return to Mets; Kirk Nieuwenhuis Optioned to Triple-A

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Once Kirk Nieuwenhuis survived the roster move that ultimately ended in Lucas Duda getting a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before Captain Kirk was going to be packing his bags to rejoin the Bisons. After getting called up for the second game of the season following an Opening Day calf injury to Andres Torres, Nieuwenhuis has been a huge part of the Mets’ first half success, but he’s been struggling mightily of late, while losing plenty of playing time in the process.

Captain Kirk enjoyed enormous success in April, not only coming up with clutch hits, but hitting at just about every other point in the game as well (.325/.386/.475). However, since then it’s been a steady decline, as he went from hitting .268 in May all the way down to his current .105 average in the month of July. He’s been looking a bit overmatched at the plate lately and with Jordany Valdespinproducing more offensively, Nieuwenhuis was the latest roster casualty. Obviously, we haven’t heard the last of Kirk, as his .252/.315/.376 meant a lot more to the Mets than it looks on paper.

New York will be welcoming back Mike Baxter, who hasn’t played in a Major League game since he smashed into the left field wall to preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter. The pride of Whitestone, NY was the best option for Terry Collins off the bench as a pinch hitter, but he was being inserted into the starting lineup more often than not before his injury thanks to his production (.323/.392/.523). His return brings another

player that hasn’t experienced all of the recent losing that has been done since the Mets returned from the All-Star break. Hopefully, Baxter will be able to provide some youthful energy to help the Amazins get back to playing more consistent baseball.

Although his rehab assignment through three levels of minors leagues was much longer than expected (13 games and 49 ABs), New York is positive that he’s swinging the bat well; Baxter tore up minor league pitching, hitting .327/.404/.408. With the struggles of Jason Bay getting worse, there have been rumblings that the left fielder has about a week left to show the front office and coaching staff that he can be a productive member of the lineup before action is taken. That action hasn’t been specified yet, but Terry Collins has hinted at a platoon with Baxter, who’s hitting .375/.438/.607 against right-handed pitching and hitless in nine at-bats against southpaws this season.

In talking about Bay’s slump, Collins made the comparison to sitting Ike Davis while he was struggling at the beginning of the year; there is no way Bay will bust out while sitting on the bench, so he’s going to continue playing for the time being, and hopefully start hitting. Although I do agree with this, Bay has shown absolutely no signs of coming to life. He did hit an encouraging home run against the Nationals on July 18th, but he wasn’t able to build on that at-bat one bit, only collecting two singles since then.

Meanwhile, Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both struggled mightily, but didn’t get consistent playing time during their slumps, which they deserved more after what they did in the first half. Captain Kirk was only 24-for-his-last-122 since June 1st, but earned 38 at-bats in July, compared to 80+ in the first three months of the season. The front office is obviously trying to figure out if they can get anything out of Bay, and using the excuse that it’s hard to get in a groove without getting at-bats, and Nieuwenhuis and Duda can agree with that.

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Tags: Jason Bay Kirk Nieuwenhuis Left Field Platoon Lucas Duda Matt Musico Mets Roster Moves Mike Baxter Mike Baxter Activated New York Mets Nieuwenhuis Optioned To Triple-A Rising Apple Terry Collins

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