From Left Field: What About Left Field?
How great has the Mets team chemistry been this season?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that the team’s biggest headache—Jason Bay—has been sidelined for nearly three weeks with a broken rib.
Bay has been cleared to resume baseball activities and will be heading to Port St. Lucie this Thursday. Terry Collins told reporters after last night’s game that Bay will play in minor league rehab games before joining the big club.
However, back to the idea of team chemistry, what happens when Bay returns?
Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been a breath of fresh air both offensively and defensively in his first Major League action. He’s already been displaced from his natural center field position with the return of Andres Torres. Torres has been on a hot streak since returning, so no one has argued with Collins decision to move the youngster to left.
But with Bay heading back, who’s the odd man out in the outfield? Lucas Duda is starting to find his stroke, and once again Nieuwenhuis and Torres are playing well.
Frankly, Bay should be the odd man out. While he showed a little bit of pop through his first 50 at-bats, he also struck out 17 times—many of which with runners on base.
Maybe the solution here is to set up a platoon with Bay, Duda and Captain Kirk. Against righties, Duda and Kirk play—no questions asked. But against a tough lefty, Bay can spell one of the young left-handed hitters.
Duda actually is hitting .306 this season against lefties and just .230 versus righties. Nieuwenhuis meanwhile has struggled against southpaws, hitting just .176.
Though Bay is making an incredible amount of money compared to Kirk, winning baseball games is the team’s priority. If Bay shows in his time against left-handers that he’s healthy and can be consistent with the bat, he will get his share of playing time.
But what would sending Niuwenhuis back to the minors after a great showing do to the young man’s confidence? He played his heart out over the last month and a half and gets rewarded with a demotion…it doesn’t seem fair.
It would be useless to have Kirk sit on the bench when he could be further developing in Triple-A. If Collins is committed to a platoon however, Kirk would still get enough playing time to stay fresh.
Let’s see how this situation plays out. I hope Bay comes back tearing the cover off the ball—giving Collins the difficult decision of what to do with Kirk. That would mean Bay is hitting and driving in runs, helping the team win and finally earning his paycheck.
About the Author: Jim Mancari
Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He recently earned a Master's degree in Journalism at Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Click my name to view my personal website.
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