Easley to play utility role, that's for sure

Easley to play utility role, that's for sure

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Four games and 22 innings at second base; six games and 18 innings at third; three games and 19 innings at first base and one game and five innings at shortstop; such has been the workload for Damion Easley since his problematic left ankle allowed him to participate in exhibition games this spring.

So now he thinks he is perfectly prepared for his responsibilities as a Mets reserve -- first, second, third, shortstop, and of course, the outfield.

But who can say? The absence of Moises Alou, the exhibition-game production of Angel Pagan, the presence of Brady Clark and now that of even Fernando Tatis have changed the Mets outfield scenario. But who can say how? And the fact that Easley hasn't played in the outfield yet probably makes it likely he will, but only after the season begins.

"I never play the outfield in Spring Training," Easley said Wednesday morning. "I didn't with the Marlins [2004] or the D-Backs [2006] or last year with the Mets."

But in those seasons, Easley played in 13 games in the outfield, mostly in right. He was the Mets starting left fielder three times and their starter in right six times last season, and before his gruesome ankle injury on Aug. 18, he had played 69 innings in the outfield.

And in 2008? "I don't know," he said. How could he? The Mets seemingly have a sufficient number of outfielders, even with Alou out for at least the first three weeks of the season. Endy Chavez and probably either Angel Pagan or Brady Clark will share the assignment, though no combination is likely to provide the production of Alou. And with Willie Randolph intent to have right fielder Ryan Church play against all pitchers, and with Tatis likely to be part of the roster, there appears to be little need for Easley, the former Angel, in the outfield.

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"Probably I didn't play out there because they didn't want to risk something happening to the ankle," Easley said. "And now I don't know. I'm comfortable out there.

Without Anderson Hernandez or Ruben Gotay -- neither is likely to be on the roster -- Easley would be the primary understudy at each infield position. But there is little need for an understudy at third or shortstop and not much need at second.

First base could become an issue -- and an opportunity for Easley -- if inside fastballs beat Carlos Delgado and his run of well-struck hits to left field ends in the exhibition season.

"I'll just have to keep all my gloves ready," Easley said.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.