NEW YORK -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis was once a relatively significant part of the Mets' future, but his tenure in the organization has reached a crossroads. To make room for outfield callup Darrell Ceciliani, the Mets on Tuesday designated Nieuwenhuis for assignment. Because Nieuwenhuis is out of options, he will need to clear waivers for the Mets to send him to Triple-A Las Vegas. They could lose their rights to him if another team places a claim.
A former third-round Draft pick, Nieuwenhuis, 27, has spent parts of the past four seasons with the Mets. He enjoyed his best year in 2014, batting .259 with an .828 OPS in 130 plate appearances, but he opened this season 3-for-38 with 17 strikeouts. It was enough for the Mets to risk losing him in an attempt to shore up their bench.
"It's very hard," manager Terry Collins said. "Kirk worked very hard. He had a tremendous spring. It's just a very, very difficult role. When you're used to playing every day for the majority of your career ... He never got into a rhythm at all. It's a real tough job. Certainly, we hope that he goes down, gets some at-bats with us, comes back and we'll see what he did last year."
In the short-term, most of Nieuwenhuis' at-bats will go to Ceciliani, the Mets' fourth-round Draft pick in 2009. Ceciliani, 24, was batting .336 with a .965 OPS over his first 37 games at Las Vegas.
Along with Johnny Monell, a catcher who had recently overtaken Nieuwenhuis as the primary left-handed pinch-hitter, Ceciliani should appear frequently off the bench. Like Nieuwenhuis, he is primarily a center fielder, but capable of playing all three outfield positions.
Ceciliani called his first big league promotion "unbelievable," saying that he found out alongside his family while celebrating his grandmother's birthday. He also vowed to "make the best of [his] opportunity" and went about doing so immediately, legging out an infield single in his first big league plate appearance.
"It was a huge relief," Ceciliani said afterward, displaying the ball on a shelf in his locker. "The heart was pounding, for sure. Just a lot of emotions and trying to calm myself down. I definitely didn't picture it that way, but I'll take it. They all count. It's just awesome being up here and being able to experience it."