Despite hot bat, Diaz just filling in

PHILADELPHIA – For Victor Diaz, the positive side is that he's impressed the Mets and Willie Randolph, so much so that the manager believes Diaz has a shot to be an above-average hitter in the majors.

The down side is that because Diaz has shown so much plate prowess, the Mets want him to keep hitting. That means the 23-year-old outfielder is likely ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk as soon as Mike Cameron comes off the disabled list.

"I'd rather see him play every day," Randolph said. "I just think it's nice for him to show what he can do and contribute."

Touted as a player who is already capable of handling pitching in the big leagues, Diaz is batting .323 entering Tuesday's game against the Phillies.

His brief Major League career has had its ups and downs. Diaz was an offensive star on the Mets' recent homestand, hitting .353 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, six runs, six walks and the team's only home run of the week – a solo shot into the right field bullpen off Florida's A.J. Burnett on Sunday.

But he committed a base-running blunder on Monday, forgetting the number of outs in the eighth inning after doubling off of Randy Wolf. Miguel Cairo skied to center and Diaz was gunned down at second for an inning-ending double play.

"First time. It won't happen again," Diaz said. "That's why there's a bunch of scoreboards up there, huh?"

One play, however, won't spoil the impressions Diaz made over the weeks of spring training and through the first several series this season.

"He's helped us a lot," Randolph said. "Don't hold me to it, but I'd prefer him to go down and play, and continue to make improvements and adjustments."

It's the defensive part of Diaz's game that needs the most tinkering. A converted infielder who has taken balls at second and third bases before his latest position switch, Diaz won't be in line to win a Gold Glove anytime soon.

However, the Mets feel his future is indeed in the outfield, and he'll be utilized in left field as well as right when he heads to Norfolk.

That will give New York another capable corner outfielder to play behind Cliff Floyd in left, an area they were caught short on last week when Chris Woodward was forced to fill in.

RHP Kris Benson, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle, will probably make a rehab start with St. Lucie (A) before he is recalled to the Majors, assistant GM Jim Duquette said Monday.


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