Mets call up Evans in place of Martinez

NEW YORK -- Fernando Martinez is about to get plenty of playing time -- in the minor leagues.

The New York Mets optioned their top prospect back to Triple-A Buffalo on Friday and recalled outfielder-first baseman Nick Evans before hosting Tampa Bay in the opener of a 10-game homestand.

Martinez, a 20-year-old outfielder, is considered the jewel of New York's farm system. He made his major league debut May 26 and batted .194 with five doubles and five RBIs in 18 games for the Mets.

After completing a series in Baltimore on Thursday, the Mets have no more interleague road games this season -- and thus no more chances to use Gary Sheffield as a designated hitter.

With Sheffield returning to left field and right fielder Ryan Church now back from the disabled list, it would have been difficult for manager Jerry Manuel to find consistent at-bats for Martinez.

"His time here has been, what we'd call from a development standpoint, hopefully a positive experience," general manager Omar Minaya said. "We'd rather have him playing every day in Buffalo."

Sitting next to Minaya on the dugout bench, Martinez said he found major league ball and Triple-A to be pretty much "the same game." And he didn't seem too upset by the demotion.

"It's like Omar said, I need to play every day," Martinez explained. "Next time, maybe better."

Martinez was batting .291 for Buffalo and leading the International League with 25 extra-base hits when he was called up.

He showed good speed and gap power with the Mets, but in his second big league game he failed to run out an infield popup that was dropped. Afterward, Martinez promised that would never happen again.

Manuel thinks the rookie needs to improve his balance at the plate, saying opposing pitchers "controlled" his front foot. Still, the Mets expect big things from Martinez in the future -- and Manuel thinks he could help the team later this year.

"What I saw in Fernando was a young player that I really believe can handle this situation," the manager said. "I really believe he's going to be a part of us doing well and doing what we need to do at some point this season."

Evans was brought up from Double-A Binghamton, where he was hitting .276 with three homers, nine doubles and nine RBIs in 25 games. Last year, he hit .257 with two homers and nine RBIs in 109 at-bats with the Mets.

Evans provides a right-handed bat with some pop. He could see occasional playing time in left field or at first base, where Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis have platooned in place of injured slugger Carlos Delgado.

"It appears as though he's hot at this point," Manuel said. "It will be somewhat of a juggling act that we'll do, and see what we have. I think he's versatile enough to where we can play him in both places."

Evans began the year at Buffalo and went 7-for-75 (.093) with three homers and seven RBIs in 22 games. His struggles were so bad that he saw a sports psychologist.

"I think it's definitely important to learn how to deal with failure," Evans said. "That was something they really taught me this year. I had a bad stretch, but try to get out of it, try to figure out what helps to get out of it so it helps me in the future."

In other news, injured pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine are slated to throw again Tuesday in game situations, either at extended spring training or in the minors.

Speedy shortstop Jose Reyes (hamstring) was scheduled to field grounders before the game, but Minaya said there's still no timetable for his return.

Switch-hitting outfielder Angel Pagan (strained right groin) might not be sidelined much longer.

New York also claimed left-hander Arturo Lopez off waivers from San Diego and optioned him to Buffalo. The 26-year-old Lopez had a 19.29 ERA in four games with the Padres this season, allowing five runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings.

To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Mets transferred infielder Ramon Martinez (broken left pinky) to the 60-day disabled list.The New York Mets optioned their top prospect back to Triple-A Buffalo on Friday and recalled outfielder-first baseman Nick Evans before hosting Tampa Bay in the opener of a 10-game homestand.