NEW YORK -- A day after placing Juan Lagares on the disabled list with an injury that should sideline him for at least six weeks, the Mets moved quickly to replace their Gold Glove center fielder. New York on Saturday signed veteran outfielder Justin Ruggiano, plugging him into the starting lineup against the Rockies barely a day after initiating talks with him.
"He plays hard, does damage against left-handed pitching," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who first met Ruggiano during their shared time in the Dodgers' organization in 2004. "He can play all the outfield positions. He can run. So he's what we'd been looking for. We needed a right-handed bat here."
To make room on the active roster, the Mets placed infielder Jose Reyes on the disabled list. They also shifted Matt Harvey from the 15- to the 60-day DL.
A veteran of six big league teams, highlighted by a strong run with the Marlins from 2012-13, Ruggiano had been unemployed for exactly one day when the Mets first made contact with him Friday. Fresh off his release by the Rangers organization, Ruggiano was talking to other clubs, but nothing had grown serious. He weighed the Mets' offer for "two or three" hours before signing, booking a flight that whisked him to Citi Field by Saturday afternoon.
"I feel blessed to be here right now, honestly," Ruggiano said before the game. "I'm humbled. Three months in the Minor Leagues will do that to just about anybody."
Ruggiano's Minor League adventure began on April 8, when the Rangers designated him for assignment after he made their Opening Day roster. With Triple-A Round Rock, Ruggiano hit .226 with seven home runs in 44 games, spending some of that time attempting to learn first base. But that arrangement did not work out for either party, leading to Ruggiano's release.
Ruggiano is a career .256 hitter, including a .273/.336/.521 slash line against left-handed pitching. He figures to assume Lagares' role, starting in center field most days against left-handed pitching, and otherwise providing a right-handed bat off the bench.
"Hopefully some stability," Ruggiano said when asked what he can bring to the Mets. "I can contribute that and defense, and be someone who's here and present, ready to help win ballgames and make a run at this thing."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.