Torres Returns, but Captain Kirk Remains at the Top

By Matt Musico

Andres Torres completed his comeback from the strained calf he suffered on Opening Day with his return to the Mets lineup Monday night in Houston against the Astros. He was back in his familiar spot in center field, but instead of hitting lead off, he was batting seventh in the lineup. With the rookie playing as well as he is, Terry Collins said that it was an easy decision to keep Captain Kirk at the top of the lineup instead of displacing him with the return of Torres.

Taking a look at what the New York offense has done recently with Nieuwenhuis at the top of the lineup, Collins actually said that it was

“a no-brainer” to keep Captain Kirk in the top spot. When you’re current leadoff hitter has hit safely in 14 of his last 17 games and has put together a triple slash of .325/.386/.475, why would you move him anywhere else? Thanks to Nieuwenhuis, Mets fans didn’t think for a second about how much Torres was missed at the top of the lineup; sure, he didn’t steal any bases, but he set the table adequately for the hitters behind him, and he’s gotten a number of clutch hits in the late innings.

Collins made a good point in that Torres hasn’t had many at-bats to start the season (about 25 in Spring Training and 20 during rehab) and didn’t want to put extra pressure on him by placing him in the top of the lineup. Plus, this is an offense that scored 22 runs and banged out 45 hits in their last three games before they took on Houston, so there is no need to mess up something that is already working. I actually like having Torres towards the bottom of the lineup better because once he gets on track, he provides some depth and speed to that part of the lineup, giving Collins more options for swiping bags and hit and runs later in the game.

Nieuwenhuis shifted over to left field to make room for Torres, which Collins also said was an easy decision. Some have said that Torres should be the one moving to left since he’s a veteran and can adjust easier- I disagree. Torres has played center field for the majority of his career, including every time he’s put on a Mets uniform, whereas Captain Kirk has played the corner positions throughout the spring, so he is more familiar with the spin of the ball off the bat than Torres would be, and I think it can be harder for a veteran to adjust to a new position than a young player.

I applaud Terry Collins for making this decision. Obviously, having a speedster at the top of the lineup is great (as we saw with Jose Reyes), but speed shouldn’t be the overriding factor in picking a leadoff hitter. Yes, speed never slumps, but a player can’t use his speed unless he gets on base. The lack of at-bats Torres has had to prepare for the season leads me to believe that if he was inserted at the top of the lineup, he will disrupt the groove the offense is currently in.

Captain Kirk gets on base and sets the table for the big hitters in the middle of the lineup, and that’s all that the coaching staff could ask for. Do they wish he could steal a couple of bases? Absolutely, but if he can continue to get on base near the .386 clip that he’s currently sitting at and can run the bases effectively, he should without a doubt stay right where he is, even upon the return of Jason Bay. A player doesn’t have to be fast to be an effective base runner, and Nieuwenhuis is showing that even though he does have some speed, a high baseball IQ, and ability to make good reads while on the base paths, leading to more runs for the Mets.

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