Kirk Nieuwenhuis' right hand injury had healed enough for the Mets to start him Thursday against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels -- but only because Andres Torres, who regularly plays against lefties, was dealing with back pain.
"It was bothering him yesterday," manager Terry Collins said Thursday. "He had some treatment on it, thought he could play with it. Today he woke up worse, which scares me a little bit."
The Mets will evaluate Torres on Thursday and Friday, before deciding whether or not his injury is severe enough for a disabled list stint. Torres, who made two DL trips last season with leg injuries, was also sidelined for nearly a month this year with a strained left calf. He is batting .201 in 59 games, stealing nine bases in 13 attempts but struggling with his running game -- over a four-game series in Los Angeles last weekend, he made four outs on the basepaths.
Torres' absence forced the Mets to counter Hamels with Nieuwenhuis, who had missed two games with inflammation of his right ulnar nerve, which runs down the arm into the hand. Nieuwenhuis said he believes a 2009 operation to remove part of his right hamate bone exposed the nerve, making it susceptible to damage. But he felt markedly better two days after suffering the injury during batting practice.
"It probably sounds worse than it is," Nieuwenhuis said. "I feel good."
The Mets had been platooning Nieuwenhuis and Torres in center, largely because of Nieuwenhuis' extreme offensive splits: a .182/.286/.236 slash line against left-handers, versus a .302/.350/.466 line against righties.