Niewenhuis a perfect fit as Mets spot-starter

Kirk Nieuwenhuis could become an integral part of the Mets bench this season as his left-handed bat and range in the outfield will give Terry Collins a great defensive replacement or pinch hitter in crunch time.

After an impressive spring training, outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has solidified his spot on the New York Mets’ roster.

He probably won’t be an everyday starter, but he’ll be the next best thing serving as the fourth outfielder.

This spring, Nieuwenhuis is batting .362 with 17 hits in 18 games.

He’s acquired five doubles, which is second best to the team high of six.

Nieuwenhuis’ 10 runs is also the second most on the squad. He trails behind center fielder Juan Lagares’ 12.

The 27-year-old was projected to be the future of the Mets back in his 2012 rookie season. However, those hopes were slowly diminishing as his strikeout rate was increasing.

In his rookie season, he tallied a dismal 98 strikeouts. That number dropped significantly in 2013 (32), but went up again in 2014 (39). He now has a 30 percent strikeout rate.

Last season, Nieuwenhuis had a .259 batting average with just 29 hits and 16 RBIs in 112 at-bats.

What people didn’t know in 2014 was Nieuwenhuis’ battle with kidney stones. It started in a game he was playing for Triple-A Las Vegas in the late summer.

Due to his hectic schedule he never finished treatment and the pain kept coming back. After a few days and trips back to the ER, Nieuwenhuis was diagnosed with a kidney and blood infection.

By the time he was done receiving treatment, the season was over, but Nieuwenhuis knew he had a chance to come back and fight for the team’s bench spot.

His swing is shorter, but more compact than it was in previous years, which could be conducive to his new role off the bench.

Now entering his fourth season in the Majors, Nieuwenhuis brings experience, especially in high-pressure situations. He may not be consistent, but he does have his moments.

The Mets’ signed two free agents this off-season, Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. The veterans were brought on to add power to the lineup, something this team has been missing.

The players do have some limitations, which could be concerning and why the bench role is of such high importance.

Cuddyer is 36-years-old and although he will be in the starting lineup, he won’t be able to play everyday. He’s an injury-prone first baseman who only played 49 games last season.

The Mets are going to have to be careful in not overusing him so he can stay healthy and effective for the entire season.

Mayberry will be a power force coming off the bench. He’ll serve as a right-handed bat sent out to dominate lefties. Defensively, Mayberry will play the corner outfield spots and first base.

With the uncertainty of the two new Mets, Nieuwenhuis’ role will also come into play.

Most of his action will be as a spot-starter against righties and as a pinch-hitter. Last season he proved his effectiveness off the bench earning a batting average of .286 (8-for-28).

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories