Juan Lagares placed on DL as Mets search for OF help

ByAdam Rubin ESPN logo
Friday, July 29, 2016

NEW YORK -- Mets center fielder Juan Lagareswas placed on the disabled list Friday and will undergo surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his left thumb.

Lagares had been trying to play through the injury since first suffering it while making a diving catch June 4 in Miami, but he told manager Terry Collins after Thursday's series opener against the Colorado Rockies that he is unable to continue.

Collins estimated Lagares should return in six weeks.

Since suffering the injury, Lagares was hitting .189 with one homer and two RBIs in 53 at-bats.

"He came in last night when the game was over and said, 'I can't keep playing like this. I can't play with the condition of my thumb,'" Collins said. "So we got him in the training room and got the doctors together, and today it was decided that he's going to need the procedure.

"He'll be out six weeks, but I tip my cap to him, because he gave a legitimate effort. He went out there and played like he always plays -- with great desire and great heart. We'll just have to fill in."

Prospect Brandon Nimmo has been promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins acknowledged that the front office is looking for a righty-hitting center fielder, perhaps just to platoon with Michael Conforto. There is no obvious trade candidate, though, especially with Peter Bourjos just having landed on the disabled list with the Philadelphia Phillies due to a right shoulder sprain.

Yoenis Cespedes returned to the lineup Friday night after the latest flare-up of a right quadriceps injury kept him out of Thursday's game. But the Mets are restricting Cespedes to left field.

With Lagares on the DL, the remainder of the Mets' outfield contingent -- Curtis Granderson, Alejandro De Aza, Conforto and Nimmo -- all hit from the left side, leaving no righty-hitting center fielder. Conforto should get the bulk of the action in center against right-handed pitching, but he is hitting only 4-for-44 against southpaws this season.

Collins believes De Aza may be the best in-house option to start in center field against left-handers. De Aza also could be a late-game defensive replacement for Conforto when the Mets have a tight lead, as Lagares previously had done.

In promoting the lefty-hitting Nimmo, the Mets concluded they did not have an attractive righty-hitting option in the minors to play center field. They considered promoting 27-year-old Travis Taijeron, who is hitting .297 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 347 at-bats with Las Vegas. But team officials were dissuaded because Taijeron has 122 strikeouts -- the third-highest total in the Pacific Coast League -- and might have difficulty making contact in the majors.

Nimmo hit .235 with one homer and four RBIs in 51 at-bats during an earlier stint with the Mets.

"I had things to work on, definitely -- in the outfield, staying low and getting good reads on balls," he said. "I went back and worked on that. At the plate, it was just more about getting back to being disciplined with the strike zone. Those are the personal things I took away from it, but I definitely felt like I can play here and I can help contribute."

Lagares' injury is the latest jolt to the Mets.

Third baseman Jose Reyes continues to be sidelined with a strained intercostal muscle on his left side. Reyes suffered the injury on a swing in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday and has not played since.

"He's a little closer, but I doubt you'll see him tonight," Collins said. "They put him through some tests today. He's better -- significantly better than the other day -- but I just think because of that particular injury we've got to be careful not to overdo it."