COMMENTARY | At the end of last season, the New York Mets faced major questions about the makeup of their outfield heading into 2013. After the first two weeks of spring training games, and following an offseason devoid of any big-time acquisitions, the major questions have turned into major concerns.
When talking about his outfield on Friday, Mets manager Terry Collins said they were "still searching." That's not good for a team that, for the most part, is relying on unproven players at every outfield position.
While Collins noted that it's still early, his team is three weeks away from fielding one of the worst outfields in baseball. The Mets better hope things change between now and April 1 when they head north for their opener at Citi Field.
Three returning players from last year -- Mike Baxter, Lucas Duda, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis -- have all struggled this spring. Baxter, who the Mets hope can at least be part of a right-field platoon, is batting .105. Duda, who the Mets project as their everyday left fielder, is hitting .158 with 10 strikeouts in 19 at-bats. Nieuwenhuis, who at the very least is expected to be part of a center-field platoon, has one hit in 18 at-bats (.056) and now is battling a bone bruise on his left knee.
And those are projected starters.
The good news is that the Mets have gotten production from Collin Cowgill (.429), who may get the bulk of the time in center field if he continues to hit. Jordany Valdespin, a natural infielder who saw time in the outfield last year, is batting .333 and his stock appears to be rising. Marlon Byrd, who the Mets signed last month, is hitting .412 and is making a strong case to be the everyday right fielder.
Back to the bad for a moment: Non-roster players Andrew Brown (.143), Matt den Dekker (.250), and Jamie Hoffmann haven't been impressive at all.
So here's the bottom line: While Collins is right that it's still early, the fact remains that the Mets were in this position -- desperate for outfield help -- when last season ended. Five months later, and three weeks before opening day, nothing has changed.
It's a shame, too, because the Mets have a solid rotation and a good infield. There are pieces in place that make you believe the Mets could be competitive. But if the outfield situation doesn't improve, it's going to be a long year.
As opening day approaches, you tell me where the answers are going to come from. Right now, the Mets don't seem to know.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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