ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mets' impending outfield crunch will not affect Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Lucas Duda, manager Terry Collins said Thursday, though all four of the team's primary outfielders will see increased bench time with the Mets heading back to National League play.
Collins explained that Duda will continue to play most days in right field, though he could rest sporadically against left-handers in an effort to put Scott Hairston in the lineup. Jason Bay should also continue to see regular playing time in left despite his struggles since returning from the disabled list. And Nieuwenhuis, who hit his first career leadoff home run Thursday, will settle into a center field platoon with Andres Torres.
"One thing it does, it keeps everybody rested," Collins said. "It keeps everybody in the game. It always gives you a quality at-bat off the bench. I just think as we get into the hot months, at least we know our outfielders are going to be fresh."
The Mets have not had to worry about their outfield alignment for the past week, playing six consecutive games with a designated hitter in American League parks. But they are done playing in AL venues for the rest of the season, meaning their four primary outfielders will all have to jockey for at-bats on a daily basis.
Playing time should suffer initially for Hairston and Duda, with the Mets facing a run of three right-handed starters this weekend against the Reds. But no one should sit for too many games in a row.
"We're just really lucky that we've got that many talented people here," Collins said. "We'll do the best job we can to make sure they all stay sharp. Whatever we've got to do to do that, we'll figure it out."