Mets bring Evans back into the fold
Versatile utility man gives Manuel many options off the bench
NEW YORK -- The Mets began another segment of their Interleague schedule on Friday night better suited to combat left-handed relief pitching than they had been. That difference was made possible when the club summoned Nick Evans from Double-A Binghamton and returned Fernando Martinez to Triple-A Buffalo, ending the first big league stint of the rookie whom the organization still regards as its primary position player prospect.
Playing opportunities for Martinez were to diminish now that the Mets are no longer playing in American League parks. Without the designated hitter rule, Gary Sheffield is likely to play left field more often than he had in recent days, thereby reducing Martinez's playing time.
For Evans, a right-handed hitter who appeared in 50 games with the Mets last season, the promotion is another step in what already has been a bizarre season for him. He abused pitching in Spring Training, batted .093 in 75 at-bats in Triple-A and, after spending time in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in extended spring training, batted. 273 with 10 extra-base hits for Binghamton.
Evans' presence on the big league roster affords manager Jerry Manuel a right-handed bat on the bench and more flexibility with his starting assignments in left field and first base when the Mets oppose left-handed starting pitching. Now Manuel has Evans or Fernando Tatis to play first base when Daniel Murphy doesn't -- presumably against left-handers -- and either of the two to play left when Sheffield's legs require rest.
Neither Evans nor Tatis was in Friday's starting lineup -- Sheffield was -- when the Mets opposed the Rays and right-hander Andy Sonnanstine. So the Mets had two competent right-handed hitters on the bench against a team with two left-handed relievers, Randy Choate and J.P. Howell. Omir Santos was available with Brian Schneider -- who belted a three-run homer in the second -- starting, but, as was the case with Ramon Castro, Santos can be used to pinch-hit only in the late innings because he is the only catcher other than Schneider.
Manuel said that he wouldn't necessarily afford Evans significantly more playing time, as he believes that Tatis can be more productive, and as long as Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado are on the disabled list and the Mets are struggling to score, the better offensive player needs to be in there.
"This is pretty much what it was like when I came up last year," Evans said. "I was here to do whatever I could in whatever role they had for me."
For the Mets in 2008, Evans played first base in three games and the outfield in 28. He appeared in 26 games at first, 21 in the outfield and one at third base in his Minor League tour this season.
The 23-year-old characterized his time in Double-A as positively as he could when he called it "a learning experience," as he struggled as he never had as a professional.
"I had a real bad 75 at-bats," Evans said, "and it snowballed on me. ... It's important to learn how to deal with failure."
Some of that learning was facilitated by a sports psychologist and by Mets Minor League batting instructor Tom McCraw.
"Hopefully," Evans said, "all that is behind me."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.