With opening day right around the corner Andres Torres is still not totally cleared to play. Torres has not played in a game since last week due to a strained calf muscle. He took indoor batting practice yesterday but that is a long way from playing in real game action. He still needs to be able to run the bases and shag balls in the outfield before we can see in the lineup again.
With that said, it is seriously time to figure out who is going to be the starting Center Fielder come opening day if he is not ready to go. The options are fairly limited and not all that impressive. You have Scott Hairston who is finally back healthy and was in yesterday’s starting lineup against the Braves. We have seen Jordanny Valdespin in center recently, as well as the recently recalled Matt Den Dekker from minor league camp. Jason Bay even went to Terry Collins last recently and told him he could fill in if needed. Kirk Nieuwenhuis recently returned from an injury as well.
None of these options are great by any means. Some are intriguing such as Den Dekker or Nieuwenhuis, and maybe even Valdespin, but all are unproven.
Matt Den Dekker according Sandy Alderson is a major league caliber Center Fielder right now. However his bat is not ready yet and he still needs to get a full season of at-bats in Double-A or Triple-A.
Jordanny Valdespin is versatile as he can play all three of the positions up the middle, but he is really just trying out Center Field and not ready to play there consistently.
Nieuwenhuis could have made an appearance last season when we had some injuries in the outfield, but he was hurt himself and missed out on the opportunity. He is the most Major League ready Center Fielder we have in terms of the complete package. His bat is ready and he good enough defensively to play the position.
We all know what Scott Hairston is and can do. In the short term he’s a decent fill-in, but he’s much better as a bench player.
With our bench being as weak as it is, a guy like Hairston is more important in that role if we have a young guy like Nieuwenhuis to play everyday in the absence of Torres. At this point I would rather see some of the kids play if an opportunity presents itself so they can get their feet wet as little. None of the options overwhelm you, but I would have to go with captain Kirk.
Who would you choose?