NEW YORK -- Juan Lagares has emerged as a stud center fielder. He makes tough catches seem routine and his production at the plate continues to improve. Now that Matt den Dekker is with the Mets, though, Terry Collins has another center fielder he needs to give playing time.
Collins started den Dekker, 26, in center field for Thursday's series finale against Phillies right-handed starter Ethan Martin, giving Lagares a rest. It was den Dekker's Major League debut after the Mets selected his contract from Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday.
"I want him to play against a right-handed pitcher his first game," Collins said. "I thought today might be a good day. Juan's played every day for who knows how long. I thought it would be a good day to get him off."
Though he went 0-for-5 at the plate in Thursday's 11-3 win over the Phillies, den Dekker reached on a forceout in the seventh inning, stole second base and scored on Eric Young Jr.'s RBI triple.
After suffering a broken right wrist in Spring Training, den Dekker hit .296 with six home runs and 38 RBIs in 53 games with Las Vegas.
Collins said there will be times when den Dekker and Lagares are on the field together, with Lagares playing right field. That spot opened up when the Mets traded Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The left-handed-hitting den Dekker could also platoon with Andrew Brown in right.
"But as we go down the road, I don't know how much you're going to see Matt against left-handed starting pitching, because that allows me to get Brown in, Lagares in the game at the same time," Collins said. "As we get in the last month, we'll see what's going to work out."
Collins said he also wants to see how den Dekker's plate discipline is, especially since he's had high strikeout numbers along with high home run totals. Collins said he was told den Dekker's worked on his two-strike approach, but he wants to see him apply it in the Major Leagues.
"I'm anxious to see how he handles everything up here," Collins said, "because obviously we know he can play defense and we're certainly anxious to see him out there in center field how he handles it."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.