WASHINGTON -- Confident in Juan Lagares as their everyday center fielder and needing to clear roster space for Jenrry Mejia, the Mets optioned outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to Triple-A Las Vegas following Friday's doubleheader against the Nationals. That move allows Mejia to remain on the active roster, in what should become a six-man rotation.
Nieuwenhuis, 25, had seen a rapid decrease in playing time over the past two weeks due in large part to the success of Lagares and Eric Young Jr. Before the Mets optioned Nieuwenhuis, Collins said in between games Friday that Lagares will be the team's everyday center fielder.
Nieuwenhuis was in an 0-for-15 slump dating back to July 13, dragging his average down to .189. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the first game of the doubleheader.
Optioning a position player means that the Mets will proceed for the time being with a four-man bench, which could grow even shorter if Justin Turner's minor injuries linger. The team is currently using a standard seven-man bullpen.
Mejia joined the team earlier Friday as a temporary 26th man for the doubleheader. Had the Mets not added him to the roster after the game, they would have needed to option him to Las Vegas.
Collins plans to keep Lagares patrolling center
WASHINGTON -- Considering how often he has played in recent weeks, the proclamation came as no surprise. But for the first time all year, Mets manager Terry Collins flat-out said it: Juan Lagares is his everyday center fielder.
"There's no reason why he shouldn't be out there right now when you do what he did with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound," Collins said after Lagares finished 3-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored, two stolen bases and one RBI in Game 1 of Friday's doubleheader against the Nationals. "He fouled some pitches off, got a decent ball to hit, ran the bases."
Just a few hours earlier, Collins was fretting over how to replace regular leadoff man Eric Young Jr., who remained sidelined with a right knee injury. But Lagares responded with everything the Mets had hoped for out of Young and more, giving them hitting, speed and even power out of the leadoff spot.
"For me," Lagares said, "every time I get the opportunity, I want to try to do my job and try to do the best for the team."
Statistically speaking, Lagares is still a significantly stronger hitter against left-handed pitchers, who tend to appear less frequently on the mound. But Collins said that Lagares' elite center-field defense makes up for any offensive deficiencies against right-handed pitchers.
"Our defense has really been a big difference," Collins said.
Turner day to day with sore right shoulder
WASHINGTON -- Mets infielder Justin Turner left Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader with a sore right shoulder, the product of an earlier collision with left fielder Andrew Brown.
Ranging back to catch a popup in the first inning, Turner hung on to the ball after colliding with Brown, but was shaken up on the play and needed a moment to compose himself. He remained in the game until the bottom of the seventh, when Omar Quintanilla replaced him at shortstop.
"I'm not sure what hit what, but I'm guessing his forearm got me in the side of the head," said Turner, who is day to day. "I think his chin hit me in my shoulder, and then we went knee to knee, too -- his knee hit my left knee."
Admitting a communication breakdown with Brown on the popup, Turner described the pain as "a charley horse in my shoulder and a charley horse in my leg" that "just gradually kept getting tighter and tighter." In a tie ballgame late, he did not want to risk becoming a defensive liability.
"He's a little sore," manager Terry Collins said. "It just started to stiffen up on him, and that's why I took him out."
Turner recently rejoined the Mets after spending a month on the disabled list with a left intercostal strain. He is batting .265 with no home runs in 102 at-bats, appearing at five different defensive positions.