During today’s game against the Marlins in Jupiter, outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis injured his knee while stealing second base in the seventh inning. He was helped off the field before being carted from the dugout to the clubhouse. Nieuwenhuis was later diagnosed with a bruised knee, and downplayed the severity of the injury when asked about it:
It was (injured) on the slide. I just hit it on something. Hopefully it’s just a bad bruise. When I went to go take my lead, it just kind of buckled a little bit, but I think the ligaments are OK. I haven’t seen a doctor yet, but I think I just have got a bad bruise…I don’t think it’s that bad.
Adam Rubin of ESPN noted that Nieuwenhuis was having trouble bending his knee after the game, and that he would be evaluated further by team doctors.
It’s impossible to know how severe the injury is at the moment. Even though the Mets diagnosed it as a bruise, Nieuwenhuis has yet to be examined thoroughly.
It’s always a shame when any player goes down with an injury. With that said, even if Nieuwenhuis were to miss significant time, it wouldn’t be an enormous blow for the team. That’s not something the Mets should be proud of. The bar his been set so low with the outfield that there are no proven impact players at risk of being injured, because there are no proven impact players.
Here’s why Nieuwenhuis missing an extended period of time wouldn’t be a big deal-
- Nieuwenhuis had a brutal second half last year (which resulted in him being demoted to AAA), before having his season cut short in late August after injuring his foot. He carried his poor second half play into the first few weeks of spring training, batting .056 (1 for 18) coming into today’s game. As Rising Apple pointed out a few days ago, if Nieuwenhuis broke camp with the team this year, it may have been by default.
- Aside from the above, Nieuwenhuis wasn’t being counted on to be an everyday player. He was slated to platoon with Collin Cowgill. Kirk may have seen his playing time cut down even further if he continued his downward trend – making Cowgill the primary center fielder.
- In Matt den Dekker, the Mets have a player who is better defensively in center field than Nieuwenhuis. It wouldn’t be ideal to start den Dekker in the majors (considering the fact that he struggled last year after reaching AAA). However, den Dekker would be an improvement over Nieuwenhuis defensively. Any offense he provided would be gravy. Another option would be Jordany Valdespin, who is a work in progress in the outfield defensively but could add a spark to the lineup.
For now, the Mets will wait for the full diagnosis regarding Nieuwenhuis’ injury. Again, it’s unfortunate whenever a player goes down, and the Mets clearly don’t have an outfield situation that anyone envies. Still, Nieuwenhuis wasn’t being relied on to provide significant offensive production or gold glove defense. He was likely to be in center field on opening day because he was the most logical choice, not because of his anticipated production. His absence would be unfortunate, but not something to flip out over.