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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

With Andres Torres Injury, Mets scurrying for center field help

Jason Bay could see some CF Action
A new injury to Andres Torres has the Mets reanalyzing their options in center field, with Opening Day nearly two weeks away.

Torres left Tuesday's game against the Nationals in the second inning with a left calf strain, leaving the Mets uncertain of his status going forward. But they do know they have options. Minutes after the game ended, regular left fielder Jason Bay approached manager Terry Collins to offer his services in center field. Collins accepted, with plans to play Bay there later this week.

In addition to Bay, Collins also plans to use Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen and infield prospect Jordany Valdespin in center in the coming days, all to deduce who might be a realistic option at the position come April. None of the four are natural center fielders.

"I'm just trying to figure out what my best fits are," Collins said.

All of that, of course, will become moot if Torres recovers quickly. To that end, the Mets will watch their starting center fielder closely over the next few days, knowing how much time Torres missed last season due to various injuries with the Giants. Torres felt a pull in his left calf while fielding Brett Carroll's line drive in the second inning Tuesday, leading to his early departure.

"I was feeling great, to be honest with you," Torres said. "How that happened, no clue."

"If he misses a week, it's a big deal," Collins said. "If he misses two days, it's not a big deal. But if you start talking about a week where he can't get out there and swing the bat, it becomes a big deal."

Exacerbating matters is the fact that the Mets are already playing without primary backup Scott Hairston, who may not be ready for Opening Day. Because of Hairston's injury, both Loewen and Baxter have seen increased time in center field lately, with the former filling in Tuesday and the latter scheduled to start there Wednesday. Neither has distinguished himself at the position to date.

That prompted Collins to approach Valdespin, an athletic, 24-year-old infield prospect who has never played the outfield as a professional. Valdespin, who is an extreme long shot to make the team as an infielder, told Collins he would be happy to give the position a try.

The Mets will also take a look at Bay, whom Collins nearly tried out in center field last season. Bay played 40 games as a center fielder early in his career, but none since 2005.

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