03/19/09 8:08 PM ET
Right field the next challenge for Evans
Hot-hitting utility player will attempt new position on Friday
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
After Evans produced three more hits, each for extra bases, and two more RBIs, Manuel found him in the clubhouse and gave him his assignment for the Mets' game against the Orioles on Friday -- right field.
Evans has played first base in the big leagues -- a whole 12 innings in three appearances last season. He has played left field far more often, has had one or two center-field experiences -- in seventh grade -- and played third frequently last spring when he wasn't in big league camp. But Evans has never played right field.
Now Evans is to play an unfamiliar position in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the winds terrorize experienced outfielders. And Evans says "It'll be exciting" in an exclusively positive sense.
No matter the wind or the assignment, no down side exists for Evans in the scenario Manuel has created. Evans is being afforded another opportunity to hit because he can hit. He has hit so well -- he leads the team in RBIs (13) and home runs (three) -- Manuel is rethinking his earlier plans for him.
Chances are, nothing will change in the grander scheme. There still appears to be no place for Evans on the big league roster once the team must add a 12th pitcher in the second week of April.
"But I'll do anything they ask," Evans said. "And I'll play as well as I can."
Even if he were to become proficient in the two corner positions in the outfield and infield, Evans would merely be duplicating what Fernando Tatis already provides. Tatis plays only those positions, and like Evans, he bats right-handed. With Manuel having decided to play Daniel Murphy regularly in left, Tatis is now the all-purpose understudy.
After his 3-for-5 afternoon against the Astros on Thursday -- including two doubles and a home run -- Evans was batting .308. Among his teammates with at least 40 at-bats in exhibition games, only Murphy (.375) and Luis Castillo (.312) have higher averages. Evans' slugging percentage is .615, higher than any of those who have played regularly in this Classic-affected spring.
Evans' swing has been so torrid of late, he and Murphy have reversed roles. Murphy now is answering reporters' questions about Evans.
Evans and Murphy, roommates in Double-A and in the big leagues last year, locker next to each other in the clubhouse. Third-base coach Razor Shines passed by after the Mets' 12-1 victory against the Astros on Thursday and paused.
"The hit corner," Shines said.
"I'll take it," Evans said. "It's a nice place to live."
Notes: "That's interesting," was Manuel's subdued response when he heard that a lack of available players on the United States team had prompted David Wright to play nine innings in the Wednesday night game against Venezuela after he had fouled a ball off the large toe of his left foot and cracked the nail. But the manager's reaction before he knew of the mitigating circumstances was, "He probably shouldn't have played if he thought he had a broken toe." The club was in contact with Wright on Thursday. ... Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran returned to camp Thursday and sung the praises of the World Baseball Classic, still savoring the experience of having played in their native Puerto Rico before home fans. Delgado was particularly touched by having worn uniform No. 21 -- Roberto Clemente's number. ... Manuel plans to rest the Carlos Brothers until Sunday. ... Alex Cora also returned, replacing Jose Reyes at shortstop after Reyes had played three innings and produced a pair of two-run doubles. Reyes has five hits and 10 RBIs in his past 19 at-bats. ... Expect cuts on Friday, mostly pitchers, but probably not Freddy Garcia yet.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.