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Nieuwenhuis exits with bruised left knee

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis left Sunday's game with a bruised left knee, potentially complicating the Mets' already unstable outfield situation.

Nieuwenhuis suffered what he believes to be "a bad bruise" while sliding into second base in the seventh inning of Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Marlins. He stood up and tried to lead off second base on the next pitch, but his knee "just kind of buckled a little bit."

Because the visiting clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium is located near the left-field foul pole, as opposed to behind the dugout, Nieuwenhuis accepted a ride off the field in a cart. He said he could have limped to the clubhouse, "but it would have taken me a while."

Nieuwenhuis, who is slated to open this season in a center-field platoon with Collin Cowgill, was scheduled to undergo testing later Sunday.

"Hopefully it's just a bad bruise," he said. "When I went to go take my lead it just kind of buckled a little bit, but I think the ligaments are OK."

If Nieuwenhuis misses any significant time, the chorus clamoring for outfield prospect Matt den Dekker to make the team may grow louder. One of the best defensive center fielders in the Minor Leagues, den Dekker became a fringe candidate for the Opening Day outfield last year when injuries struck Andres Torres and Jason Bay.

He is a year older and a more refined player this year, but den Dekker still draws criticism for the significant amount of swing and miss in his offensive game. The Florida native hit 17 homers over two levels of the Minors last season, but also struck out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances. Still, as a left-handed hitter, he could fit into a center-field platoon with Cowgill.

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