New York – Friday night at Citi Field in the New York Mets outfield, Mike Baxter got the start in right field, Lucas Duda was in left, Jordany Valdespin in center. It has been common not to expect the same everyday outfield combination in the lineup put together by manager Terry Collins.
It could cause some issues, but not in the Mets clubhouse. Everyone seems to be content with their playing time. What matters most, Collins is trying to find the right combination that can produce some runs in the lineup. And, if Valdespin keeps coming off big, as he did Wednesday night with a walk-off game winning grand slam home run, he could be in the outfield every day.
However, Collins will not commit to who plays where. As he makes out the lineup a lot has to do also with righty against lefty, and who may have the upper hand. Except Mets fans are becoming acclimated to seeing Valdespin come up big, who can also fill some holes in the infield.
“I took the one guy who has a .400 on base in Mike Baxter and said if we can get him on, we got a guy at number 2 who can handle the bat, and hit behind runners, and hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things,” commented Collins about inserting Baxter in right at the top of the order Friday night.
Baxter was followed in the order by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and then came Duda. The Mets come to the ballpark and it does matter where, when, or if or not they are in the lineup.
The outfield has learned to work as a unit and in the end it comes down to winning ballgames.
Yes, Sandy Alderson, the general manager suggested to Collins to insert Wright fifth in the order. The Mets captain, before getting injured, drove home 10-runs in the World Baseball Classic. The outfield, though, that is the discretion of the Mets manager.
“He led off for us last year, he knows what he is doing,” said Collins about inserting Baxter in that role Friday night as the Mets dropped the first of a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Baxter struck out once and went hitless in four at bats. In the third inning, he also lost a ball in right field that was ruled a double of the bat of Lance Nix.
“It was the twilight out there, hard to read,” commented Baxter about the mixed ball. He said it had nothing to do with the limited playing time out in right, or coming off the bench as a role player.
As for going hitless at the plate, Baxter and the Mets can blame Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick who shut out the Mets for the first time this season limiting them to three hits. Kendrick did not allow a runner to second base after the first inning.
Simply put, Collins is aware that he has to get his guys playing time and find a proper role for them. Baxter, as with rookie Juan Lagares, will get the time. The 24-year old Lagares of the Dominican Republic was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas Tuesday and recorded his first Major League base hit coming off the bench.
The attitude of Lagares, it fits in with the rest of that crowded outfield. “I am going to try and be here and do whatever they need me to do here, come here to work hard everyday ” he said after getting his first start in center Wednesday night against the Dodgers.
But in a matter of time, Collins and the Mets should have that outfield set. In the meantime, when the Mets outfield arrives at Citi Field early Saturday morning for another game with the Phillies, as has been the case, they will look on the board and see if their name is in the starting lineup.
“We will come out tomorrow and give it another try,” said Baxter.
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