ATLANTA -- Far away, but not forgotten in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Andres Torres performed light outfield drills on Tuesday for the first time since straining his left calf on Opening Day. Torres could progress to baserunning drills as soon as Thursday, with a rehab assignment beyond that on the horizon.
Whenever Torres does return, the center field job almost certainly belongs to him -- not rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Manager Terry Collins made that clear on Tuesday.
"I think he's still an important piece of this puzzle," Collins said of Torres. "Nieuwenhuis has played great. But Andres Torres, we got him for a reason. One of the things he provides is that guy who can get in scoring position for us. Outside of hitting doubles, we don't have anybody that's going to steal any bases for us."
Nieuwenhuis has thrived throughout his Major League debut, supplementing strong defense with a .292 average, one home run and a .370 on-base percentage over his first nine games. But company policy is not to have a prospect ride the bench in the Majors, even if that means an unjust demotion back to Triple-A.
"I just don't think that's fair to a young player," Collins said of keeping Nieuwenhuis on the bench. "I know he wants to be here. You talk to any young player, they'll tell you they can learn by watching. ... You learn by playing. I watch a lot of golf. I stink. So don't think that for a second."