Torres' status for opener concerning Mets

Torres' status for opener concerning Mets

Torres' status for opener concerning Mets
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Andres Torres' slow recovery from a left calf strain has the Mets concerned about his availability for Opening Day and scrambling to identify potential replacements.

General manager Sandy Alderson called the center fielder "touch and go" for Opening Day, with manager Terry Collins noting that "he's not a whole lot better." Torres has done nothing but receive treatment in the five days since straining his calf in a game against the Nationals.

Complicating matters is that backup center fielder Scott Hairston also remains sidelined, despite significant recent progress in his rehab from a strained left oblique muscle. The news on Hairston is a bit more optimistic: He plans to take live batting practice Sunday for the first time since his injury, giving the Mets reasonable hope that he will be ready to play come Opening Day.

But the team remains concerned about Torres.

"It's a pretty big piece of the puzzle," Collins said. "We got him to fill a pretty big void for us. With him being out, out of the gate and with Scott hurt, we're going to scramble."

Even if both Torres and Hairston are not ready to go by April 5, Alderson said the Mets will still carry a natural center fielder on their Opening Day roster. That means that either Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis would make the team, despite questions surrounding both of them.

Widely considered the best defensive center fielder in camp, den Dekker produced massive strikeout totals at Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton last summer, leading the Mets to believe he is not ready for a Major League assignment at age 24. And Nieuwenhuis, who has also never played in the Majors, is battling a right oblique strain after missing more than half of last season following left shoulder surgery.

Still, the Mets will carry one of those two for defensive insurance if both Torres and Hairston are not healthy come April 5. Nieuwenhuis is the team's preference, due to his experience and the fact that he is already on the 40-man roster. But the Mets would consider den Dekker if necessary.

"We want to have a center fielder when we go north," Alderson said.

To that end, if Hairston is healthy, it would solve a number of problems. His experience as a big league center fielder would allow the Mets to focus more on offense with the final spots on their bench, carrying Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen or even Jordany Valdespin as a backup.

Baxter and Loewen are the most polished of the three, with the former offering better contact skills, and the latter more power. But Valdespin, an infield prospect by nature, has also intrigued the Mets with his performances in camp, leading them to experiment with him in center.