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Monday, May 13, 2013
Mets sign outfielder Rick Ankiel

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

ST. LOUIS -- On pace for historically low production from their outfield, the New York Mets signed Rick Ankiel on Monday and intend to use him as part of a platoon in center field.

Ankiel, 33, started in center field and went 0-for-3 as the Mets fell 6-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.

"Obviously I've played here in Busch Stadium quite a bit, so it's kind of ironic the first game back is here in St. Louis," Ankiel said before the game.

Ankiel was released by the Houston Astros four days ago after batting .194 with five homers, 11 RBIs and 35 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. He has missed on 42 percent of his swings this season -- the worst rate in the majors, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I thought it was quick," Ankiel said about his release from Houston. "But it is what it is. Baseball is a business, and I know [the Astros] wanted to give those young guys a shot. I was just happy I had an opportunity there and I enjoyed it. I wasn't happy about the inconsistency, but my power was there. But it was early -- hopefully I'll get that turned around."

Mets outfielders currently have a collective .222 batting average and .299 on-base percentage -- both ranked 14th in the National League. The 1965 Mets outfield, the worst in franchise history in those two categories, finished with a .223 batting average and .284 OBP.

Mets manager Terry Collins said the lefty-hitting Ankiel and righty-hitting rookie Juan Lagares will platoon in center field. That's a blow to Jordany Valdespin, whom Collins said may play some second base if Daniel Murphy continues to struggle.

Outfielder Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and right-hander Jenrry Mejia was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear room for Ankiel.

The Mets hope a change of scenery will help Ankiel, as it did at least initially with catcher John Buck.

Ankiel, presented with a handful of number options, chose No. 16. He was a fan of Dwight Gooden while growing up in Port St. Lucie, Fla. -- the Mets' spring-training home.

"I was a big Doc Gooden fan when I was younger, so even being able to wear 16 is cool," Ankiel said. "It's exciting. I asked what numbers were available. There weren't that many. When 16 was one of them, it was a done deal right away."

If only Ankiel's glove had made it from Houston, the Mets may not have lost Monday.

After borrowing and then feeling uncomfortable using Scott Rice's glove while shagging pregame, Ankiel instead borrowed a glove from Jonathon Niese. The normally solid defensive center fielder then dropped Ty Wigginton's sinking liner in the seventh inning while lunging forward. The shot, which popped out of the borrowed glove, was ruled a double. Wigginton eventually scored the tiebreaking run on an odd play.

"I don't want to make excuses about the glove. I do think if I have my glove it stays in there," Ankiel said. "But I'm the type of person, I feel like if I can get a glove on it, I feel like I should have caught it. And in that situation right there, you don't want to let him get to second. He got there anyway and he ended up scoring. It sucks, but it is what it is."