Inbox: Is Nieuwenhuis a fit in center?
Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers Mets fans' questions
It has already been a long spring for the Mets, who have dealt with more than a dozen injuries, met with old friends Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and watched with fascination every time Johan Santana has thrown a pitch.
But on Monday, they rest.
Monday is a rare off-day for the Mets to regroup, relax, go fishing, hang with their families -- whatever. And it's a chance for us to revisit the Inbox.
Do you think the Mets should just go ahead and start Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field? I feel like they're in a similar position to a couple of years ago, when they didn't have much of an option at first, had Fernando Tatis, but eventually just went with Ike Davis. They're already saying he might be on the Opening Day roster.
-- Matt, Farmingdale, N.Y.
Had the Mets thought that way, they never would have traded for another center fielder in Andres Torres. The organization is well aware that Torres is probably not more than a temporary stopgap, given his age, injury history and offensive question marks. But the Mets did not need more than that, with Nieuwenhuis and a host of other center-field prospects representing an organizational strength.
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Had Nieuwenhuis not missed most of last season due to injury, he probably would have been given every shot to win the job this spring. But the Mets want to see him succeed for at least a half-season at Triple-A Buffalo before handing him a big league job.
For what it's worth, even if he might have changed the club's mind with a strong spring, Nieuwenhuis suffered an oblique injury early in camp and was among the first round of cuts last week. He may be back, but not for a few months, at least.
It seems that every other day, a player is getting injured or needing a day off. With manager Terry Collins already expressing his frustrations with the amount of injuries, how is the overall tone of the clubhouse? Players surely aren't immune to predictions for the team, and I was wondering if this affects them on a daily basis.
-- Matthew L., Dix Hills, N.Y.
Normally, I would dismiss a question like this, understanding the degree to which most players keep their noses trained to the ground. But as a team, the Mets have been so unhealthy this spring that the situation has permeated every corner of the clubhouse. The trainer's room is packed on a daily basis. The clubhouse has players milling around long after morning workouts begin. It came to a head last week, when Collins stood in the center of the room and -- with several players and media members well within earshot -- vocally expressed his frustration with the entire situation.
It is affecting the Mets, because they have not been able to do the types of things they need to do to get ready for the season. Simple tasks, such as practicing double plays or rundown drills, have been impossible for the team to perform as a unit. Less than three weeks into the official start of camp, this team had already had 15 injuries.
That said, despite a couple of more troubling health issues, most players are already growing healthier -- an indication that there is still time left for the Mets to regroup. This club knows it needs to focus on fundamentals in Spring Training, with less talent on paper than its rivals in the National League East. That's not my opinion -- it's what the players in the clubhouse typically say when asked why all the lost practice time is important. For the most part, these guys are realists. They know that the sheer volume of injuries in camp has prevented them from logging extra hours on the diamond, putting them at a disadvantage until they can get that work in.
Do the Mets have any plans to reevaluate their medical and training staffs?
-- Nick M., Valley Stream, N.Y.
The Mets did precisely that after last season and opted not to make any changes. That decision was based largely on the fact that after leading the league in injury days in 2008 and '09, the Mets -- despite some major injuries to key players -- were healthier as a whole in '10 and '11.
If the Mets do make changes to their medical and training staffs, it will not be until next winter. Teams rarely make those types of staff moves during the season.
If the Mets are so worried about Josh Thole's catching, why not pick up Ivan Rodriguez for a year? He can serve as mentor and spell Thole once in a while. He can't be that expensive, and he'll hit better than Mike Nickeas.
-- Elaine B., Las Vegas, Nev.
Simple economics. The Mets believe that relative to what they are paying him (which is close to the Major League minimum), Thole can provide more bang for the buck than Rodriguez, the recently retired Jason Varitek or any other veteran catcher they might have signed this offseason. Of course, they know that Thole has certain defensive limitations, but they also love his willingness to work at fixing them.
Once Thole hits arbitration after this season and becomes more expensive, it very well may be a different story. Until then, Thole and Nickeas will do just fine for the Mets -- they have bigger issues than an underperforming catcher.
At what point does time run out for Reese Havens? I realize he has been slowed down by injuries, but he is 25 years old this season and still hasn't played past Double-A.
-- Vinny F., Oxford, Miss.
I wrote this story on Havens earlier this spring, which should shed some light on your question. The Mets still love Havens' potential, but they are beginning to grow doubtful that he will stay healthy enough to cash in on it -- a valid concern. My guess is that unless Havens is healthy for a full season in 2012 -- and already, that seems unlikely -- it will be nearly impossible for him to develop into a productive everyday Major Leaguer.
Did the Mets evaluate Scott Kazmir? If they did, do they have an interest in signing him again?
-- Jerry C., Binghamton, N.Y.
They did, going as far as to fly a scout down to Texas to watch him throw. The reports were not great, prompting the Mets to pass on Kazmir -- though it would have been an interesting story, for certain.
Is Eddie Kunz still with the Mets or not? I've seen where he was traded to San Diego, and I saw where he's still signed with the Mets. Could you shed some light?
-- Brian W., Edmond, Okla.
The Mets traded Kunz, their top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, to the Padres last summer for first baseman Allan Dykstra (no relation to the former Mets outfielder). After a brief experiment starting games as a Mets Minor Leaguer, Kunz converted back into a reliever for the Padres, with mixed results.
Nice change back to the traditional uniforms. Do the Mets have any plans to add an alternate blue jersey any time soon?
-- Dennis S., Bayonne, N.J.
They do, but due to Major League rules, they cannot actually add the blue jerseys into their regular rotation until 2013. When they finally do arrive, expect the blue jerseys to look similar to the "Los Mets" threads the Mets wore on Fiesta Latina night last year -- minus the "Los."