HOUSTON -- The third Major League game of what had been a disappointing season for Nick Evans unfolded quite differently on June 25, with a double, two RBIs and a festive press conference afterward in the Citi Field clubhouse.
After a tough few months in which he didn't make the team after a torrid Spring Training and then struggled mightily in the Minors before turning it around, Evans' powerful bat had lifted the Mets over the Cardinals, and the Mets were glad to have him.
One month later, the situation has changed -- and Evans' place in the organizational plans has, too. On a day in which the Mets easily could have called up Evans to fill out what's currently a four-man bench, manager Jerry Manuel instead opted to keep an extra pitcher in uniform. And so the Mets will proceed through a critical stretch with both Elmer Dessens and Tim Redding still in their employ.
"I still like to have that safety net," Manuel said, dismissing Evans or any other hitter as an option. "I don't know if we have a position player that will weigh in more than that extra pitcher, who at least keeps that part of the team in its right place. We won't overuse or abuse anybody out there because of a certain game. If there happens to be a bad game, we can still save people for the days to come."
The Mets were presented with an extra pitcher Saturday, when outfielder Gary Sheffield went on the disabled list and Jon Niese joined the rotation. Had Sheffield been healthy, the Mets likely would have shipped out a reliever rather than a position player -- and they still can. But although Manuel confirmed Sunday that Niese will remain in the rotation until further notice, he sees a benefit in keeping eight arms in his bullpen -- even if some of them might go a week or more without pitching.
"That's why there has to be a Dessens," Manuel said. "That's why there has to be a Redding. It can't be a very young guy. When there's a veteran guy down there, there are certain things he can do to keep himself sharp. They're basically there for the protection of the staff."
That same logic can be used to explain why Evans, despite hitting .304 with four doubles and a home run over his past six games with Triple-A Buffalo, will not return to New York City anytime soon.
"When you have youth but they're not playing every day, there's still a learning experience of how to handle that," Manuel said. "You don't need that extra body unless it's a guy that you feel will come off the bench and -- boom -- immediate power."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.