NEW YORK -- When Mets manager Terry Collins perused his lineup options prior to Monday's series opener against the Phillies, he quickly realized how few of his hitters boasted solid track records against opposing starter Roy Halladay. Then he scanned down to Kirk Nieuwenhuis' name.
"He's only had three at-bats, but he does have a hit," Collins said, laughing. "We don't have very many, so I thought I might run him in there."
So it happened that Nieuwenhuis played center field and batted leadoff in Philadelphia, one day after coming up with a big ninth-inning single in New York's comeback win over the Marlins. Because Collins has been mixing and matching his outfielders on a daily basis, it is only natural that he should also reward players for strong games and key hits.
"Any time you can get at-bats helps you for sure," Nieuwenhuis said. "I'm just trying to grind up there."
Right fielder Marlon Byrd was also back in the lineup Monday, one day after grounding a walk-off two-run single past a drawn-in Marlins infield. Byrd is the only Mets player with strong numbers off Halladay in a significant sample, batting .313 with two doubles and a triple in 16 career at-bats.
He and his teammates did their requisite homework on Halladay before the game, as they usually do in the clubhouse video room. Though Halladay has demonstrated a much-publicized lack of velocity this year, the Mets were not taking anything for granted against their longtime nemesis.
"One of the things that's made him special in my mind is not just his stuff, but the way he's pitched," Collins said. "He makes his pitches. And he's got so many weapons that you can't ever sit on anything, because you don't know what you're going to get."