New York – Go figure the game of baseball. On the night New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan ties a career game high in hits, four, there is talk that soon he could be one of the Mets outfielders out of the equation when Carlos Beltran returns to the lineup.
Prior to their game Tuesday against Detroit at Citi Field, Mets GM Omar Minaya addressed the media and said Beltran will begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment Thursday with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League.
So here we are in the Mets clubhouse a half hour or so after the Mets pound the Tigers 14-6. “You guys waiting for me,” said Pagan with a smile that has been seen more this season from him and his teammates. The waiting time for Pagan is over. He has matured as a player and he will be the first one to admit that.
And despite Pagan’s continued references to just being a player holding his spot in the lineup until Beltran returns, the Mets should consider options for him with the expected return of Beltran to the lineup prior to, or after the all-star break.
There is every reason to believe that the Mets can use four outfielders. And hard to conceive manager Jerry Manuel not playing Beltran often, assuming he is healthy enough to play often. Jason Bay, with the huge contract can’t sit on the bench despite his inconsistency to drive in runs. Jeff Francouer has proved to have that ability to sit well at the bottom of the order and the arm ability to command right field.
Pagan could be the odd man out, not deserving of the talk about being a guy the Mets could use in a trade to obtain another front line starting pitcher. Nor should Pagan be part of an equation of a possible fourth outfielder used by Manuel.
Simply put, Pagan is now an everyday player. He has proved to be deserving of holding his spot in the Mets lineup, showing no signs of becoming the player that made constant mistakes at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield last season.
Manuel has yet to address the issue of a possible outfield dilemma and surely there is reason to understand why the manager avoids the issue. The chemistry in the clubhouse is in place. More so, Pagan is one of the reasons for the improvement of these 2010 Mets.
“Angel is getting big hit after big hit, he’s been big for us,” commented Manuel late Tuesday evening. No questions at the moment as to how the situation will be handled with the eventual return of Beltran who has to play with his huge contract in place until the end of 2011.
Pagan can’t be the odd man out here. “What’s in my mind is to help the team offensively or defensively,” said Pagan when asked about his four-hit night. He will be the first to admit that covering Beltran’s spot has been a big responsibility.
He does not check to see if Beltran has left a text message. Pagan is going about his business and helping the Mets win ballgames. And if indeed he is left out of the equation, as an everyday player, there has been no talk about being unhappy.
“Right now I am very confident because of the opportunity from last year,” he says, “just concentrating on staying healthy and helping this team.” He extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the opening series against the Tigers and was a home run shy from becoming the Mets tenth player to hit for the cycle with his 4-for-6 night and four runs batted in.
There were times during the misery of a season lost in 2009 when the name of Angel Pagan became a target of bad news. He was making the Mets worse and not better. He certainly has closed the door on many of the skeptics and is a valuable commodity in Manuel’s every day lineup. The injury prone Pagan is healthy, seeing the ball well at the plate, batting .304 with 35 RBI, five triples, 14 doubles and five home runs second in the order behind Jose Reyes.
Manuel and Minaya have decisions to make. Four outfielders soon, three spots, and someone will be the odd man out as an everyday player. Certainly it should not be Angel Pagan who would sit and rust on the bench, though one way or the other it is inevitable that Pagan will play often
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]