Newly-acquired Nieuwenhuis joins Angels
Outfielder gives Halos new option against right-handed pitching
ANAHEIM -- If you, like baseball writers across the country, are having a hard time with Kirk Nieuwenhuis' last name, don't feel so bad. Nieuwenhuis was once given a professional jersey that was missing that pesky little first "u," and he's never met anyone who could spell it right on the first try.
"My wife had a hard enough time with it," Nieuwenhuis said.
However you spell it or say it -- it's pronounced new-N-hice, by the way -- this is the Angels' new option against right-handed pitching. For now, at least. Until his bat gets cold or the front office makes more significant moves to address a sluggish offense or both.
The Angels acquired the 27-year-old outfielder from the Mets for cash considerations on Wednesday and will plug Nieuwenhuis into their lineup against righties, pairing him with their other left-handed option, the struggling Matt Joyce.
Nieuwenhuis was born in Santa Monica, Calif., and attended Azusa Pacific University. He was a third-round Draft pick in 2008, and was once a relatively significant part of the Mets' future. But Nieuwenhuis sported only a .230/.302/.374 slash line in 226 Major League games these last four years.
He wants what every other young player wants -- consistent playing time.
"It's exciting," Nieuwenhuis said from the home clubhouse at Angel Stadium on Thursday. "Obviously, the American League and National League is a big difference. It's an extra spot in the lineup. It makes a big difference. It's a different ballgame here."
The Angels faced Tigers right-hander Buck Farmer on Thursday, but Nieuwenhuis wasn't in the lineup because he basically hasn't played in over a week. The Mets designated him for assignment nine days ago, and ever since then, Nieuwenhuis has basically been in baseball purgatory, relegated to sporadic workouts at Citi Field whenever the Mets weren't in town.
He'll probably start Friday, against Anibal Sanchez.
"He's got to get started with seeing some Major League pitching," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's the only way you're going to eventually hit Major League pitching is to see Major League pitching. So the quicker we can start that process, hopefully the quicker he'll be productive."
Nieuwenhuis is a solid defensive player at all three outfield positions -- when he and Joyce are in the same lineup, Nieuwenhuis will probably start in left field -- and he's shown flashes against right-handers.
Nieuwenhuis posted an .855 OPS in 120 plate appearances against righties last year, then finished the ensuing Spring Training with a .322 batting average. He won a job as a pinch-hitter and fifth outfielder, which means he didn't play much. By the middle of May, Nieuwenhuis had managed three hits in 38 at-bats and the Mets needed to make room on their roster for outfield callup Darrell Ceciliani.
They chose to DFA Nieuwenhuis, who was already out of options.
And the Angels -- 25th in the Majors in runs per game, 29th in OPS and struggling against right-handed pitching -- took a chance.
"It looks like a lot of fun to play on this team," Nieuwenhuis said, "just from afar."