With runs at a premium, defense paramount
CHICAGO -- With two converted infielders playing the corner outfield positions and a new center fielder, the Mets understand how important their outfield defense is. Especially when their runs are at a premium.
"That's one of the reasons why [Rick Ankiel is] here," manager Terry Collins said of his newly acquired center fielder. "It allows us to platoon out there with he and [Juan Lagares], who are both very good defenders. When your right fielder now is a converted infielder and the left fielder is a converted infielder, you've got to be aggressive. You've got to take some of those fly balls. Hopefully, we put them in the right spots."
There are clearly still some growing pains, as in Thursday's win over the Cardinals, when Ankiel hesitated on a two-out hit by Pete Kozma that fell in for an RBI double. But Collins said that third-base coach Tim Teufel and first-base coach Tom Goodwin work on how to best configure converted infielders Lucas Duda and Jordany Valdespin when they're in left and right field, respectively, to give them all the help they can.
Collins expects Valdespin, who played 15 games in the infield last year but has been used primarily as an outfielder this season, to be tested this weekend at Wrigley Field, where right field can be a challenge.
"It all depends how that wind's blowing," Collins said. "If that baby's blowing out here, you can't play deep enough. But I give [Valdespin] a lot of credit -- he does take a lot of fly balls during batting practice, and if we have to, we'll get him out of there if we think that's going to pose a problem. But we've got to get a lead."
Entering Friday, the Mets had scored 165 runs, which ranks them 21st in the Majors. They've scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last 10 games and in 13 of their last 19, prompting Collins to field a lineup more suited to score than perhaps defend.
"When you're not scoring, you've got to get some offense in there," he said. "I hate to give up defense, but defense right now isn't helping us very much. We've got to find some ways to score some runs."