NEW YORK -- A day after injuring his left hand during batting practice, outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis managed to avoid the disabled list. But that did not stop the Mets from bringing in some bench insurance, recalling Jordany Valdespin from Triple-A Buffalo and designating left-handed reliever Justin Hampson for assignment.
The Mets will play with a short-handed bullpen likely until the All-Star break -- a luxury they can afford thanks to their starting pitchers, who have lasted at least six innings in 16 of their last 17 games. The tradeoff is that they will have an extra bench player in Valdespin, who boasts experience at second base, shortstop, left and center field.
After bouncing between the Majors and Minors for much of the early season, Valdespin caught fire recently at Buffalo, batting .333 with two home runs and four stolen bases over his last 10 games.
He will give the Mets another left-handed bat with Nieuwenhuis' status still in doubt. The rookie outfielder injured his hand and sustained possible nerve damage taking a dry swing behind the batting cage Tuesday, and was awaiting the results of an MRI on Wednesday morning. But Nieuwenhuis, who underwent surgery to repair a broken hamate bone several years ago, said he woke up Wednesday feeling "quite a bit better."
"There was just some pain in there," Nieuwenhuis said. "I couldn't take my normal swings."
Until Nieuwenhuis is ready to play, the Mets will proceed with a mix -- though not necessarily a straight platoon -- of Scott Hairston and Valdespin in left field.