Center fielder will miss at least 6 weeks; club's No. 5 prospect returns for 2nd stint
By Troy Provost-Heron
NEW YORK -- The Mets announced Friday that Juan Lagares has been placed on the 15-day disabled list and will undergo surgery to repair the partially torn ligament in his left thumb. He is expected to miss at least six weeks.
The outfielder suffered the injury making a diving catch to rob the Marlins' Ichiro Suzuki of a hit back on June 4. He tried to play through the ailment, but ultimately landed on the disabled list on June 16. He returned to the Mets on July 2 and played in 22 games -- starting 13 -- before deciding he could no longer play through the pain.
"He came in last night when the game was over and said that he couldn't keep playing like this," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I tip my cap to him because he gave it a legitimate effort. He went out there and played like he always plays -- with great desire and great heart."
In a corresponding move, the Mets recalled Brandon Nimmo, the organization's No. 5 prospect, from Triple-A Las Vegas. The outfielder took an overnight flight that went from Fresno, where the 51's played a doubleheader on Thursday, to San Diego and then New York.
Nimmo's second stint in Flushing, though, doesn't alleviate the problems caused by Lagares' absence. When healthy, Lagares has been a platoon hitter in center field against left-handed pitchers, hitting .260 (19-for-73) vs. southpaws, while also being a Gold Glove (2014) outfielder off the bench in late-game situations.
Michael Conforto is expected to get the majority of the starts in center field with Lagares sidelined, but he is hitting only .091 (4-for-44) against left-handers this season. Nimmo, a left-handed hitter, hit .338 (27-for-80) against lefties in Triple-A this season, but Collins said that Alejandro De Aza will likely step into Lagares' role for the time being, getting the starts in center field vs. lefty pitchers and being used as a late-game defensive replacement.
Collins also added that the Mets are searching for a right-handed outfielder who could fill the void left by Lagares.
"We have to find somebody who has at least played a lot of center field to where we are a little comfortable late in the games," Collins said. "De Aza, right now, would be that guy, but I know we are certainly trying to find a right-handed bat that perhaps could spell those lefties a bit."
Troy Provost-Heron is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.