PHOENIX -- Mets manager Terry Collins gave Mike Baxter his second start in right field on Saturday, in part, because he was curious to see what the rookie has to offer. He also did it because he likes to have Scott Hairston lurking on the bench.
"This guy has gotten nothing but huge hits off the bench," Collins said of Hairston, who is tentatively scheduled to start in right field on Sunday. "I know that everybody likes to play, but it's nice to have that piece of the puzzle that's over there, and you can insert it when you need a big hit."
Young players such as Baxter, Collins said, do not typically possess the same pinch-hitting aptitude as their veteran teammates, because preparing body and mind for a mid-game assignment is a learned skill. To that end, Baxter has already begun picking the brains of Hairston and fellow veteran Willie Harris, asking what he can do to better prepare for his pinch-hit opportunities.
Though sporadic starts should continue to come for Baxter throughout August and September, the bulk of his at-bats may come as a left-handed pinch-hitter late in games.
"I've always kind of been prepared for when I got to the big leagues, I was going to be in a role like this," Baxter said. "That's kind of how you break into the league, unless you're a young prospect. So I've been ready for that."