Kirk Nieuwenhuis was not supposed to hit leadoff in Wednesday's game. Mets manager Terry Collins did not want the rookie's first at-bats against Braves SP Jair Jurrjens to come in the No. 1 hole. Then again, Nieuwenhuis was not supposed to be with the big club this early in the season either, but plans change.
Collins' original plan was to give starting SS Ruben Tejada the day off and simply plug backup SS Ronny Cedeno in Tejada's spot. The skipper changed his mind, placed Cedeno eighth and batted Nieuwenhuis first.
Nieuwenhuis took advantage of the opportunity by smacking three hits. He also drove in and scored a run in the Mets' 14-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Nieuwenhuis looked comfortable batting leadoff, exuding the same aura he has all season—as if he truly belongs in the bigs. Nieuwenhuis was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on April 6 because Andres Torres was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf, an injury that riddled him all spring.
Upon his arrival in Queens, Collins told ESPN NY that he considered batting Nieuwenhuis last in the order. “There was a consideration about hitting him ninth followed by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and David Wright. But if I’m gonna do that, why don’t I just lead him off?" Collins said.
Tejada has held on to the leadoff spot with a .262 batting average and .326 on-base percentage, but Collins should consider shaking up the order. After his big day on Wednesday, Nieuwenhuis holds a .375 clip and an OBP of .444.
The problem for the Mets has not been the top of the order, but rather their four, five and six hitters. Davis, Bay and Duda have a combined average of just .188. The latter two are the Mets' corner outfielders. If they continue to struggle, it would be hard to send Nieuwenhuis down to the farm.
Should Captain Kirk be sent down when Andres Torres Returns from the DL?
In a pregame press conference last week, Collins spoke about the fallacy that is young players believing they can learn a lot by watching from the bench. Collins says he has watched a lot of golf, but he still stinks.
According to MLB.com, Collins would rather Nieuwenhuis start at Triple-A Buffalo than rot on the big-league bench. "We want him playing every day. That way, when he gets called back up, he's in a little better shape for playing," Collins said.
All that being said, he could be the Mets' best option in CF, LF or RF, depending on Bay and Duda's hitting funks and Torres health. If he is, he should be in the lineup.
Mark Simon of ESPN NY Stats & Info wrote that Nieuwenhuis' two-hit major league debut, was the first for a Mets outfielder since Lenny Dykstra did so in 1985. After his hot debut, Nieuwenhuis struggled, recording only one hit in his next eight AB's. He has warmed up recently, hitting safely in his last six games.
Torres is rehabbing in Port St. Lucie, but as of Tuesday had not yet started a running program. He is still likely weeks away, but Collins has said the CF job would be his when he returns. If Nieuwenhuis continues his good play, I am sure Collins could change his mind again.
Pete Barrett is a freshman at Gettysburg College. You can follow him on twitter @PeteBarrettJr.