Nieuwenhuis' football mentality a plus
Rookie center fielder has jolted Mets with intensity, production
NEW YORK -- In rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets manager Terry Collins knows what he sees one minute may not be what he sees the next.
Catch Nieuwenhuis two hours before the game, and the rookie may appear calm as can be. But when the game rolls around, his outlook changes.
"He's a football player," Collins said before Saturday's game. "He's got a football background. Those guys, when it comes to game time, they can change their attitude, they can change their makeup."
Nieuwenhuis, a high school standout in football in Colorado, first caught Collins' eye when the Mets' manager was the Minor League field coordinator. On Collins' first trip, he went to Binghamton, home of the Mets' Double-A team, where he saw Nieuwenhuis and Mets outfielder Lucas Duda during batting practice.
"I watched those guys -- there was a group of them -- during batting practice, and they were nice and loose and having a good time," Collins said. "I walked out on the field right before gametime, and they were different people. When the game starts, it's all business, and I really like that about Kirk."
Collins also no doubt enjoys Nieuwenhuis' bat. Since settling in to replace the injured Andres Torres, Nieuwenhuis has hit .371 with a .450 on-base percentage. He also has two home runs, including Friday night's opposite-field blast to left.
As long as Nieuwenhuis keeps getting on base, Collins says, he'll continue to consider using the rookie in the leadoff spot. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Nieuwenhuis doesn't fit the standard mold of a leadoff hitter. But that's the role he filled Saturday for the second time this season, in part to help break up left-handed batters in the Mets' lineup, but in part because of his on-base ability.
Ike scuffling, but Mets not concerned
NEW YORK -- Though he showed signs of life on the Mets' first road trip this season, Ike Davis took an 0-for-5 in Friday night's home loss to the Giants. The first baseman has still not put his early-season slump behind him.
Davis entered Saturday afternoon's game hitting .140 with a .204 on-base percentage. In the eyes of manager Terry Collins, Davis is close, but not quite right at the plate.
"I know that he's been working," Collins said before Saturday's game. "He's been out early. He hit early on the road, he hit early again yesterday. We're trying to get him going. As I told him, I'd move him to get him to relax, but I don't have anyone else to put in [the cleanup] spot right now."
Davis started the season hitless in his first 18 at-bats, and he entered Saturday with seven hits in 50 at-bats. He hit three home runs in the trip to Philadelphia and Atlanta, but he has no other extra-base hits this season. In facing the Giants, Davis may find ending his slump especially difficult. The Giants have finished first or second in team ERA in each of the past three seasons.
"One of the things, when you face the Giants, you're facing good pitching," Collins said. "And good pitching is going to, a lot of times, get good hitting out."
Davis continues to look for something close to what he displayed in 36 games last year before an ankle injury ended his season in May. Before going on the disabled list, he posted a .302 average with a .383 on-base percentage.
"We've just got to be patient with him," Collins said. "I think eventually and very soon, he's going to start doing some damage."
David Wright entered Saturday's game on a 10-game hitting streak, four games shy of his 14-game run in 2007 that set a Mets record for a streak to start the season. Wright, who missed three games with a fractured right pinkie, has also become the first Met to reach base twice in each of his first 10 games in a season. He is the first Major Leaguer to do it since 1999, when Kenny Lofton, Frank Thomas, Jose Offerman and Will Clark all accomplished the feat.
The Mets and Natural Balance hosted Bark in the Park on Saturday. Fans were allowed to bring dogs to the ballpark and parade them around the warning track before the game. Those fans and their canines then watched the game from the Pepsi Porch in right field. The Mets will host a similar event on Sept. 22.