Injured Carson takes hit in lefty competition
Reliever strains side muscle, will have to rest for weeks
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Left-hander Robert Carson is the latest injury casualty in Mets camp, straining an intercostal muscle in his left side. The Mets have removed Carson from their upcoming pitching schedule, making it extremely unlikely that he will log enough innings to break camp with the team.
Carson had been competing with Garrett Olson, Chuck James and Daniel Herrera for a job as a second lefty in New York's bullpen -- a role that may or may not even exist. Now, it appears that Carson will rest and recover at least into mid-March, while the others continue to pitch and presumably gain an advantage.
Pitching almost exclusively as a starter at Double-A Binghamton last season, Carson finished 4-11 with a 5.05 ERA, allowing 154 hits in 128 1/3 innings.
Second-base prospect Reese Havens also sat out the team's first intrasquad game as he continues to recover from a bout of back stiffness. Though Havens said that "every day it's getting a little better," the oft-injured second baseman does not anticipate returning to action this weekend.
Nieuwenhuis making presence felt
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Shortly after the Mets' intrasquad game on Friday, Daniel Murphy asked Kirk Nieuwenhuis if he hit his game-deciding two-run home run, or if he hit it.
"I hit it," Nieuwenhuis said, emphasizing the second word and grinning.
And the Mets took note. Had Nieuwenhuis not suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury last summer at Triple-A Buffalo, he might have entered Spring Training as the favorite to win the Mets' starting center-field job, largely on the strength of his .403 on-base percentage at Buffalo.
As it is, Nieuwenhuis missed the final four months, prompting the Mets to pencil him in for another stint at Triple-A.
It is a tricky situation for Nieuwenhuis, the organization's most advanced position player prospect, but one with two significant factors working against him. First is the glut of center-field prospects advancing rapidly through the system, from Matt Den Dekker to Brandon Nimmo to Cesar Puello and Juan Lagares. Second is the notion that Nieuwenhuis' size may make him better-suited for a corner-outfield position.
But Mets manager Terry Collins is among those who believe the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Nieuwenhuis can stick both at his position and in the Majors.
"He's got great skills, and of course he plays the game the way you want it played," Collins said. "He's one of those guys that, boy, it gets close to seven o'clock and his mood changes."
"Just putting the injury behind me and getting out there again has been really good," Nieuwenhuis said. "It feels great to be back out there."
Nieuwenhuis' home run Friday made a winner out of Team Orange's Jeremy Hefner, who relieved Matt Harvey and Miguel Batista in the 3-2 victory. Frank Francisco walked two batters in the seventh, but recovered for the save, against a Team Blue lineup composed almost entirely of Minor Leaguers.
The Mets will play another intrasquad game on Saturday, pitting their starting infield against their starting outfield in another seven-inning affair. A third matchup is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, though the Mets may scrap it in favor of a light day of workouts. Their Grapefruit League schedule begins Monday evening against the Nationals.