Collins: Lagares earned everyday role

July, 26, 2013
WASHINGTON -- No offense to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but Juan Lagares has earned the regular role in center field.

Terry Collins made that proclamation after Lagares started in center field against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, three runs scored and two steals in the Mets' 11-0 Game 1 win against the Washington Nationals on Friday.

Lagares and Nieuwenhuis pretty much had been platooning in center field, which meant Nieuwenhuis getting more of the recent play with the Mets primarily seeing righty pitching of late. Nieuwenhuis is hitless in his last 14 at-bats.

"There's no reason why he shouldn't be out there right now when you do what he did with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound," Collins said. "He fouled some pitches off, got a decent ball to hit, ran the bases."

Collins suggested Zimmermann, despite his stature as a pitcher, was a good matchup for the free-swinging Lagares because the Nat throws strikes and is around the plate.

Lagares originally was placed in the No. 6 hole in Friday's matinee, but ascended to leadoff with Eric Young Jr. scratched because he still is nursing a knee injury.

The other motivation for Lagares getting a regular role, according to Collins: The solid fielding with Lagares in center.

"Our defense has really been a big difference," Collins said.

Said Lagares: "For me, every time I get the opportunity I want to try to do my job and try to do the best for the team."
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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