NEW YORK -- Jordany Valdespin made his first career start in center field on Sunday for the Mets' series finale -- and final game before the All-Star break -- against the Cubs.
Valdespin was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on June 24 when Ruben Tejada was activated from the 15-day disabled list, but since rejoining the team on Wednesday, he had belted two home runs. Valdespin started in left field against the Cubs on Saturday.
"I saw some great bright spots in Spring Training," manager Terry Collins said about Valdespin's abilities as a center fielder. "[Triple-A manager] Wally [Backman] said he's played very well when he's played him out there."
Valdespin started in center just once during his most recent stint with Buffalo -- he started six of seven games at second base. Regardless, Collins -- who served as the Mets' Minor League field coordinator in 2010 -- thinks the 24-year-old has a lot of potential.
"Towards the end of the first year I ever saw him," Collins said, "when you saw the athleticism, you almost said, 'You know what? This guy would make a pretty good center fielder.' So there was always that thought to put him out there."
Valdespin -- who Collins frequently uses as a pinch-hitter -- had hit safely in his last nine Major League starts dating back to May 13 entering Sunday. Collins said he feels that the talent level is there, but admitted that the sample size -- Valdespin had just 67 career at-bats entering Sunday -- is still too small to determine whether or not he is ready to be an everyday starter.
"I can't put a number of at-bats on it, because they are going to start making some adjustments and seeing what he can handle," Collins said. "But Jordany Valdespin is a very talented kid, [he's] got all sorts of ability."
But Collins said that even with Valdespin's improvement as a player, the skipper is most impressed with his maturation at the Major League level. As a Minor Leaguer, Collins said Valdespin showed talent and ability but was inconsistent with his attitude and how he approached the game.
"Up here, he's been a whole different guy, and I think the fact that he's in a Major League clubhouse where he's watching, he's listening, we've got some great veterans -- I think Miguel Batista has been a tremendous mentor for him -- he's growing up a little bit. He may be the guy as we continue on down here that gets the most out of this whole season because he grows up."
Valdespin got the nod in center on Sunday with Andres Torres still recovering from a back injury and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the midst of a prolonged offensive slump. If the two can rebound from their respective issues during next week's All-Star break, Collins will have to juggle playing time in the outfield if Valdespin remains with the team for the second half of the season.
All things considered, it's a pretty good problem to have.
Gee, not Johan, to start second-half opener
NEW YORK -- Johan Santana will not make his scheduled start on Friday against the Braves to give his sore right ankle a few days of extra rest. Dillon Gee will start in his place.
Santana twisted his right ankle on Friday night against the Cubs attempting to barehand a Justin Turner flip at first base. Reed Johnson, who hit a dribbler in between the mound and first base, then stepped on Santana's already twisted ankle when he ran through the base.
As planned, R.A. Dickey will start for the Mets on Saturday, and manager Terry Collins said that Santana and Jon Niese will likely start on Sunday and the following Tuesday, July 17, though not necessarily in that order. Chris Young will pitch fifth in the rotation, making his first post-All-Star break appearance on July 18.
Edgin not quite ready for promotion to Mets
NEW YORK -- The Mets already received contributions from a handful of rookies in the first half of the season, but asked whether there are any prospects he expects to see with the team after the All-Star break, Terry Collins quickly answered, "No."
The New York Post reported the Mets would recall left-handed reliever Jose Edgin shortly after the All-Star break so they can better gauge what internal options they have before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But Collins said Sunday that inconsistency at Triple-A Buffalo is keeping Edgin from a promotion.
The 25-year-old started the season at Double-A Binghamton and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings, then allowed 16 earned runs in 36 innings since his promotion to Buffalo. He allowed 34 hits, walked 17 and struck out 40 in that time.
"Well, he had another rough outing last night. That's one of the reasons he's not here yet," Collins said a day after Edgin allowed a run on two hits in one inning of work. "Like any young pitcher in Buffalo ... there's ups and downs. To pitch up here, you want to make sure there's some consistency to it all. When [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] feels one of those guys are ready to help, I'm sure we'll see him."
The Mets' bullpen and its 4.99 ERA entering Sunday is the most glaring need for a team that entered the final day before the unofficial halfway point 4 1/2 games back in the National League East. And while Collins said he does not expect help from the farm any time soon, he also appeared tentative about potential trades.
"We know where our holes are and we know how to fill them, but the asking price to fill them sometimes just isn't going to be paid," Collins said. "We're just not going to sacrifice the future for a piece for a month. I've been there before and I learned. We can't worry about what we don't have. I know what we need ... but I also know it could kill you down the road to give up some of the things you have to."
Torres' back feels better after taking swings
NEW YORK -- Center fielder Andres Torres took swings Sunday for the first time since back pain popped up Thursday and kept him out of the lineup the past three games, and said he felt better.
Torres hit soft tosses in the batting cage before the Mets' series finale against the Cubs, which manager Terry Collins said Torres could be available for, but cautioned, "I doubt he'll contribute much." Both Collins and Torres expect the switch-hitting outfielder to be ready after the All-Star break.
"When I come back, I'll be ready," Torres said.
Steven Miller and Adam Rosenbloom are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.