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Mets call up Matt den Dekker, turn to kids for auditions
Sandy Alderson refused to frame the latest reshuffling of his roster as an admission of another lost summer. Even as he pushed aside incumbents in favor of unproven commodities, he never conceded that what's left of this season will be spent focused on the next.
"I've tried to be honest with myself about that," Alderson said Friday night. "And I have not concluded that this is a step back from competition."
If the Mets somehow sneak into the postseason, it will be with a far different team from the one that arrived at Citizens Bank Ballpark on Friday, when a 5-4 win over the Phillies soon became an afterthought.
Outfielder Chris Young, who signed a one-year, $7.25-million deal in the offseason, then faltered to hit .205 with eight homers, was designated for assignment. He will be replaced by Matt den Dekker, the 26-year-old outfielder who will get his first extended chance with the Mets after a dominant month at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis also will get more playing time, which will further diminish at-bats for veteran Eric Young Jr. At shortstop, Ruben Tejada, 24, will take a backseat to Wilmer Flores, 23, whose bat will have to carry his questionable glove.
First baseman Lucas Duda, the emerging slugger who has been shielded from tough lefties, will be in the starting lineup Saturday against the Phillies' Cole Hamels.
"There's some upside potential here," Alderson said. "And we have to see if that's there."
The overhaul comes with the Mets (55-61) on the edges of contention, though they stand eight games behind the NL East-leading Nationals and seven games behind in the race for the second wild card.
But that soon might prove secondary to determining which players will help the Mets make the jump into contention, even if that doesn't occur until next year.
Flores has long been considered one of the Mets' most promising offensive prospects, but concerns about his lack of range at shortstop had kept the Mets from giving him an extended audition. But Tejada, the better defensive player, has hit just .167 since the All-Star break.
Flores caught fire with Triple-A Las Vegas, eventually earning his recall to the Mets, where he will get his first chance to establish himself.
"I am just gonna do what I do, just play," Flores said. "It's nice that I am going to get some playing time."
Terry Collins said he has been content with Flores' defense and his ability to make routine plays at shortstop. "The only way to find out is to put him out in the middle of the infield," he said.
Den Dekker leads the Pacific Coast League with a .334 average and his defense has long been held in high regard. Though he has the skills to play centerfield, he likely will get much of the playing time in leftfield alongside Juan Lagares.
Chris Young found himself squeezed out. Though his playing time had diminished, he said he was caught off guard. "I'm comfortable with the fact that I've worked hard and I truly did my best," said Young, who will turn 31 on Sept. 5. "It's just unfortunate it didn't work out as planned."
The Mets had bet on a bounce-back season for Young, who has shown home run power in the past. "I feel terrible about it," Collins said. "But we're in a spot now where we want to see some young guys."