Nieuwenhuis will wait and see with left knee

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis sported a heavy limp Monday as he walked through the Mets' clubhouse, but the outfielder believes he managed to avoid the worst. An MRI revealed that Nieuwenhuis has a bone bruise in his left knee but no ligament damage, perhaps allowing him to avoid an extended absence.

"It could be a few days; it could be a week," Nieuwenhuis said. "I've just got to kind of wait it out and see how it responds to the medicine."

Nieuwenhuis injured his knee sliding headfirst into second base during a game against the Marlins on Sunday. Though he is not sure precisely how he hurt himself, Nieuwenhuis believes he banged his knee on Roger Dean Stadium's infield dirt, which he compared to "concrete."

Injuries are nothing new for Nieuwenhuis, who missed the second half of the 2011 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, then strained a right oblique muscle last spring, and then suffered a season-ending plantar fascia tear in his right foot in August. The latter ailment came after Nieuwenhuis jumped out to a hot start in his rookie season but faded rapidly at the plate, particularly against left-handed pitching.

"It's part of the game, but it's probably the most frustrating part of the game," Nieuwenhuis said of his injuries. "Thankfully, this isn't serious."

The Mets envision breaking camp this spring with Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill manning two halves of a center-field platoon. But Nieuwenhuis must first prove he is healthy, then that he is right at the plate; prior to his injury, he was 1-for-18 with seven strikeouts in Grapefruit League play.

If Nieuwenhuis does not break camp with the team, defensive standout Matt den Dekker could make the club in his place. More likely, the Mets would use Mike Baxter in a center-field platoon with Cowgill, hand Cowgill the position outright, or put Marlon Byrd in center and Baxter in right.