PHILADELPHIA -- When the Mets signed 40-year-old Bobby Abreu to a Minor League contract earlier this season, they envisioned him contributing as a pinch-hitter off the bench, or maybe even just as Minor League depth.
They certainly did not see him starting five games in the outfield over a six-day span, including Saturday's matinee against the Phillies. But Abreu's hot streak, combined with Chris Young's cold snap, made that an easy decision for manager Terry Collins. Abreu was scheduled to be in the starting lineup even before the Mets scratched Juan Lagares with muscle spasms.
"He is exactly what everybody said," Collins said of Abreu. "He is a professional hitter. He adjusts at the plate, he works the counts, he looks for something that he wants to hit. That's what the real good hitters do.
"You've got to be careful of overusing him, because the legs are going to get tired faster than anything else. I'm very cognizant [if he plays] a couple days in a row, maybe let him have a couple days. You've got to be careful not to wear him down."
Abreu came into the game batting .467 with three doubles, two walks and four RBIs in his most recent four starts. Compare that to Young, who is batting .141 with a .528 OPS since May 6, and who made a critical defensive error in the 14th inning of Friday's loss.
Lagares scratched with spasms in ribcage
PHILADELPHIA -- Minutes before Saturday's game against the Phillies, the Mets scratched starting center fielder Juan Lagares due to muscle spasms near the back of his right ribcage. Chris Young replaced Lagares in center, batting leadoff.
Lagares, who played all 14 innings of Friday night's loss to the Phillies, said he first felt something abnormal in his final at-bat of the game. He aggravated the injury taking batting practice prior to Saturday's contest, but felt well enough to start.
"I know it's nothing bad," said Lagares, who is day-to-day. "It's like a minimal thing."
Still, the Mets were taking no risks with Lagares, one of their most valuable players so far this season. Manager Terry Collins scratched him from the lineup and allowed him to lay down a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt in the 14th inning of the Mets 5-4 victory, but had no intentions of letting Lagares swing the bat.
Lagares, who is batting .291 in 40 games, lost time earlier this season to a hamstring strain. If he must miss additional time, the Mets have three other players capable of manning center field. Young, Curtis Granderson and Matt den Dekker are all natural center fielders on the active roster.
After swapping Montero for Carlyle, Mets call Eveland
PHILADELPHIA -- Fourteen innings took their toll not only on New York's bullpen Friday night, but also on their active roster. Needing a fresh arm for Saturday's game, the Mets officially selected the contract of right-hander Buddy Carlyle from Triple-A Las Vegas, optioning starting pitcher Rafael Montero and moving Daisuke Matsuzaka into the rotation.
The Mets repeated the trick after playing another 14 innings Saturday, flying left-hander Dana Eveland to New York in advance of Sunday's game. The team has not announced a corresponding move.
"It's really a move made out of necessity," assistant general manager John Ricco said of the initial pitching swap. "This wasn't something we had talked about. But when you play a long game like that and you're in the middle of a long stretch with no off days, you have to make adjustments."
Montero's performance did play into the move; manager Terry Collins noted that the rookie must learn to use all his pitches even when one or more of them might not be working. The deep counts that dogged Montero in Friday's a loss to the Phillies affected his performance, as did the 11 walks he distributed over his first 20 big league innings.
The Mets, in other words, would have been unlikely to option him back to the Minors if he were pitching well. Other alternatives included optioning one of their taxed relievers, or simply playing short on their bench for a day or two to make room for Carlyle.
"Obviously he has some things he can work on, and I know that was part of the message that Terry gave to him this morning," Ricco said of Montero.
Matsuzaka started his first game of the season for the Mets in last Sunday's doubleheader against the D-backs, delivering six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts. The Mets nearly put him in the rotation to start the season, so they have no qualms about using him there now. They were forced to use Matsuzaka for an inning of relief in Saturday's game, but that should not affect his ability to enter the rotation this week.
That is good news, because Matsuzaka may be there for a while. Right-hander Dillon Gee still has not begun throwing in Florida, and could be a month or more away from returning from a strained right lat muscle.
Saturday, the Mets were more concerned with the short-term circumstances of a bullpen lacking two of its best arms. Jenrry Mejia and Vic Black were both unavailable against the Phillies, with several other relievers severely limited.
Carlyle, a veteran of parts of seven big league seasons with the Padres, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees, landed in Philadelphia shortly prior to first pitch, calling the opportunity "gratifying" after battling back from Type 1 diabetes to return to the Majors.
"It's the first time I've been back since," Carlyle said. "Being a Type 1 diabetic doesn't really hinder me from anything."
Eveland, 30, is an eight-year veteran of seven big league teams. He was 4-1 with a 3.91 ERA at Las Vegas, starting eight games and appearing four times in relief.