Nieuwenhuis sizzles in Grapefruit League opener

Nieuwenhuis sizzles in Grapefruit League opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis keyed the Mets' offensive attack with a four-hit performance that included a first-inning RBI single off Wandy Rodriguez in Wednesday's 8-2 win over the Braves.

Mets manager Terry Collins stressed the importance of Nieuwenhuis' need for a big spring after the game.

"I thought he had a good day," Collins said. "It was good for him. He's fighting for a big spot on this club. He's out of options, so it was nice to see him have a big day."

Nieuwenhuis added another single that put him in position to score when Eric Campbell delivered what proved to be a decisive two-run double off Matt Capps in the fifth inning.

Though Rodriguez and Capps were far from sharp during their one-inning stints, Jose Veras proved far less effective as he surrendered five earned runs while recording just two outs in the sixth. Veras issued a pair of walks before surrendering a three-run home run to Johnny Monell.

Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee issued consecutive walks to begin his afternoon and allowed the Braves to strike for two first-inning runs. But after allowing the hosts to get on the scoreboard with Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly and A.J. Pierzynski's two-out, opposite-field single, Gee completed a perfect second inning with three flyball outs.

Rodriguez, who is battling to serve as Atlanta's fifth starter, threw 30 pitches (16 strikes) during his one-inning appearance. The veteran left-hander encountered some misfortune when Wilmer Flores' soft chopper died in the grass for an infield single. But there was nothing cheap about the line drive single Nieuwenhuis drilled into the left-center-field gap to give the Mets a 1-0 first-inning lead.

Mets Up Next: Potential Opening Day starter Bartolo Colon will make his first spring outing in a 5:05 p.m. ET game against the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. Several top prospects will also appear in the game, including infielders Dilson Herrera and Matt Reynolds and outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The game can be heard on Gameday Audio.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.