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Nixon stumbles into regular playing time

Nixon stumbles into playing time

DENVER -- Given his experience with Boston's media jungle, Trot Nixon wasn't too fazed by anything that happened during his introductory week with the Mets. He had played through a midseason dismissal before, when the Red Sox replaced Jimy Williams as manager back in 2001. He's seen drama. And so Nixon sat quietly by his lockers in Anaheim and Denver this week, watching the Mets spiral out of control around him.

There's a certain calm to Nixon these days, now that he's back in the Major Leagues with the Mets. He hit a home run Friday night and earned his second straight start on Saturday, all of which seemed perhaps impossible during the weeks he spent mired at Triple-A.

"I had to accept the fact that that's where I was," Nixon said. "And the only way I was going to get back to this level was to go out there and perform."

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Ego checks come frequently in the Pacific Coast League, where Nixon spent two months as a member of the Diamondbacks organization. His 11 seasons at the big league level meant nothing -- at least not in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of game.

But baseball's winds also have a way of changing quickly. When injuries to corner outfielders Moises Alou and Ryan Church worsened to the point that both needed to go on the disabled list, the Mets needed an outfielder.

Nixon needed a job.

"I'm just here to play baseball," Nixon said. "I'm not here to take Alou's spot or Church's spot. Those guys are on the DL right now, and I wish them a speedy recovery, because I spent plenty of the time on the DL myself."

But until they recover, Nixon remains among the strongest candidates to receive regular playing time in left field. His ability to hit for power from the left side is helping to patch one of the Mets' weaknesses, and Nixon plays superior outfield defense than Alou, who is set to begin swinging a bat next week.

There's a good chance Alou won't return until after the All-Star break, and Church, too, remains more than a week away. So in interim manager Jerry Manuel's meritocracy, where reserves earn playing time based on how well they perform, Nixon has stumbled into a regular chance to succeed.

"I enjoy winning," Nixon said. "I love winning. Obviously, we all like to have the great stats and all that stuff, but winning is the big thing. Winning makes everything a whole lot better."

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

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