NEW YORK -- A few hours after the most significant game of his life, Kirk Nieuwenhuis did not stray far from the Queens hotel where he is staying. Nieuwenhuis enjoyed a quiet postgame meal near Citi Field with his parents, in town from California, then left to prepare for the second game of his Major League career.
"We were all kind of tired," Nieuwenhuis said Sunday morning. "I was worn out."
Summoned from Triple-A to replace injured center fielder Andres Torres, Nieuwenhuis recorded an infield hit in his second at-bat Saturday, giving the ball to his father for safekeeping back home. He then rapped out another hit in his final plate appearance, giving manager Terry Collins pause. If Nieuwenhuis continues to reach base, Collins said, he could start leading off games for the Mets with Torres on the DL.
Playing without their preferred leadoff man for at least two weeks, the Mets have been topping their lineup with Ruben Tejada, who batted eighth on Opening Day. But Collins is wary of slotting Tejada first on a consistent basis, wanting to protect his 22-year-old shortstop from the pressures of the position. Collins has also ditched the idea of using Daniel Murphy leadoff, fearful of Murphy harnessing his natural aggression by taking too many pitches.
That leaves Nieuwenhuis, who, like Tejada and Murphy, lacks a prototypical leadoff hitter's sheer speed. But Nieuwenhuis posted a .403 on-base percentage in 53 games for Triple-A Buffalo last season, drawing a walk once every 6.9 plate appearances and generally impressing the Mets with his approach. Though Collins will not bat Nieuwenhuis first right away for the Mets, he may not hesitate to do so if Nieuwenhuis adapts quickly to Major League pitching.
"He can be patient," Collins said. "We're going to monitor this as we go, and if he starts swinging the bat, I might have to get Kirk up there earlier."
After rough 2011, bullpen off to stellar start
NEW YORK -- Here's how well the Mets' bullpen has pitched: over the first two games of the season, manager Terry Collins did not even consider calling upon Manny Acosta, arguably his best reliever last summer.
Though Acosta finally made his debut in Sunday's 7-5 win over the Braves, snapping the bullpen's scoreless streak in the process, Collins could not have been happier with his relievers throughout the first three games of the season.
Through two games, the Mets had compiled seven scoreless relief innings, one-third fewer than the league-leading Nationals. Only three other relief corps had emerged unscathed over that span. Even after Acosta served up a solo home run to Brian McCann in the eighth inning Sunday, New York's bullpen ranked amongst the league's best with a 0.90 ERA.
That represents quite a change for the Mets, who sat 28th in the Majors with a 4.33 bullpen ERA last season. It also represents quite a change for Collins, who has been working to establish defined roles for his relievers. Though Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch are clearly his preferred closer and setup man, respectively, Collins has yet to decide how best to deploy Ramon Ramirez, Bobby Parnell and Acosta.
"Most relievers like to have consistent work if they can," Collins said. "I'm going to try to make sure we get some guys in early and then start to form some patterns."
Mets offering $2.50 seats for Johan-Strasburg
NEW YORK -- The Mets are offering a limited number of $2.50 tickets to Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Nationals, featuring a pitching matchup of Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg.
The sale is part of the team's season-long 50th anniversary celebration, with the Mets rolling back tickets to the $2.50 price they offered in their first year at the Polo Grounds in 1962. Tickets for Wednesday's game are available at Mets.com/MetsBirthday, along with the Citi Field ticket windows adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Seats are located in non-season-ticket holder areas in the promenade outfield and left-field landing. Tickets will not be available on the day of the game.
Santana and Strasburg are both scheduled to make their second starts of the season Wednesday.
Roger Craig, the first starting pitcher in franchise history, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Left-hander Johan Santana threw a routine bullpen session Sunday and is "on target for his next start," according to manager Terry Collins. Santana delayed his bullpen for 24 hours due to having an extra day between starts, as he will for seven of his first eight outings. Santana is slated to start Wednesday's matinee against the Nationals.
The Mets are auctioning off the "Carter 8" batting practice jerseys that they wore on Opening Day on Mets.com/gameused. Net proceeds will benefit the Gary Carter Foundation, which promotes reading programs to better "the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of children."