Mets to call up Nieuwenhuis to play center
Prospect to make big league debut on Saturday, replacing Torres
NEW YORK -- Less than a year after shoulder surgery stalled his path to the Majors, Kirk Nieuwenhuis will make his big league debut with the Mets.
The Mets will activate Nieuwenhuis prior to Saturday's game against the Braves, placing Andres Torres on the disabled list. Torres, who strained his left calf in Thursday's season opener, planned to fly to Florida on Friday to begin his rehab.
When Minor League camp broke earlier this week, Nieuwenhuis stayed behind in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in the event that Torres could not fully heal from the calf strain that he initially suffered on March 19. It was only after Nieuwenhuis reported to Triple-A Buffalo that Torres reinjured his leg.
As a result, Nieuwenhuis, 24, will be in uniform at Citi Field on Saturday. After a strong first half with Triple-A Buffalo last summer, Nieuwenhuis appeared to be the center fielder of the future for the Mets, who were growing unhappy with Angel Pagan's offensive and defensive production. But Nieuwenhuis tore the labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, ending his season in July. After the season, partially because Nieuwenhuis did not yet have a full season at Triple-A on his resume, the Mets traded Pagan for Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.
In 53 games for Buffalo, Nieuwenhuis hit .298 with six home runs, 17 doubles and a .403 on-base percentage. He ranked 11th on MLB.com's 2012 Mets Prospect Watch.
Had Nieuwenhuis stayed healthy this spring, he might have made a late run at an Opening Day roster spot given all the outfield injuries in camp. But Nieuwenhuis suffered a right oblique injury of his own midway through Spring Training, resulting in a premature demotion to Minor League camp.
The Mets could also have called up utility man Vinny Rottino or center-field prospect Matt den Dekker to replace Torres, but instead chose Nieuwenhuis, the only internal candidate already on the 40-man roster. Current bench players Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter also boast center-field experience, with Hairston figuring to receive the bulk of at-bats in Torres' absence.