Even if Hidalgo turns out to be a half-year rental, he'll still be protecting Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd in the heart of the lineup, which could make dreams of a Shea summer pennant race not seem so far-fetched after all.
Despite being three games under .500 at 31-34, the Mets enter Friday's game just 5.5 games out of first place in a weak NL East, and Hidalgo's arrival could help further spark a team that is coming off of a 2-1 series against the Cleveland Indians in which they scored 14 runs.
"I think this sends a message that we're trying to put a winning team on the field," said Mets manager Art Howe. "It's another bat in the middle of the order and he's been a run producer. He's an outstanding right fielder and a good guy to have in the clubhouse. We're pleased to have him here."
Offense has been the problem for the Mets, who entered play Friday hitting .248 as a team and having scored 271 runs, third fewest in the Major Leagues and the second fewest in the National League to cellar-dwelling Montreal. That cost hitting coach Denny Walling his job on Tuesday.
Interim hitting coach Don Baylor will greet his newest student on Friday and immediately begin work to correct a flaw in Hidalgo's swing, according to GM Jim Duquette. The Mets' advance scouts apparently identified an easily-correctable hitch in Hidalgo's plate stature, which could partially explain why the 28-year-old is hitting just .256 with four homers this season.