Bay's willingness to play center opens options

Bay's willingness to play center opens options

JUPITER, Fla. -- To be clear: Jason Bay is not volunteering to be an everyday center fielder.

"I'm not suited for that," Bay said.

But if both Andres Torres and Scott Hairston are not healthy enough to start the season, Bay is happy to sub at center for a few days, a week, whatever.

"I don't know if I'm going to be the best center fielder in the league," he said. "But if it gives us a chance to get other guys in certain spots, I feel I can do it."

If nothing else, Bay's flexibility may give the Mets more options as they wait to see how Torres and Hairston heal from their injuries. The team had no update Wednesday on Torres, who strained his left calf in Tuesday night's game and remains day to day. Nor can they speculate upon a return for Hairston, who has struggled to recover from a strained left oblique.

That uncertainty has led Mets manager Terry Collins to consider some unorthodox ideas for the position, from shifting Bay to center to trying out infield prospect Jordany Valdespin in the outfield. The latter may be the most intriguing possibility, considering Valdespin's .333 average and .533 slugging percentage so far this spring, as well as his overall athleticism. But he has never played there as a professional, creating some wiggle room for more experienced competitors Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen.

Valdespin, for his part, has jumped at the opportunity to learn a new position, given the glut of infielders already ahead of him on the depth chart.

"I want to play in the big leagues no matter where I play," said Valdespin, who spent time practicing in the outfield over the winter. "If I stay in the big leagues I can help the team."