Mets Notebook: Searching for a left fielder, Santana returns - Metro US

Mets Notebook: Searching for a left fielder, Santana returns

The starting leftfield job is up for grabs now that Terry Collins has decided to platoon Jason Bay. Which means there is now an opportunity for Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin to prove they are everyday players.

Both Baxter and Valdespin started in the outfield for the Mets Wednesday night. Valdespin replaced Bay in left while Baxter played right field.

“I have Jordany in left because Mike has played more right field than he has,” Collins said during his pre-game press conference at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon. “Right field, as you’ve heard mentioned a lot of times, can be a tough position to play. Left field seems like it is a little easier.

“I talked to [first base coach] Tommy Goodwin — who’s played all [outfield positions] — and he said left field was easier than right field. So take a guy without a lot of experience and left field is the spot,” Collins said, who speculated that Lucas Duda and Bay could split time at left in the future.

Santana back in the game

Johan Santana will start Saturday night against the Braves. It is his first start since lasting only three innings in a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers on July 20.

Following the start, the Mets placed Santana on the DL with a sprained right ankle.

“I’m very confident that Saturday night we’re going to see a good outing out of Johan,” Collins said. “He’s feeling so much better about the way his arm feels, about the way his leg feels, the energy he’s gotten back.”

Collins did sound a warning though.

“We have to be very cautious in the month of September to make sure he goes into the offseason feeling good. If that means, somehow, give him an extra day [of rest] every now and then — figure out a way to do it — we’ll do it,” Collins said. “I don’t want to go into next spring training [having to] find out if Johan Santana is healthy. We have to go into the offseason knowing he is.”

Injury swoon

Is there a correlation between second-half swoons and injuries?

Collins certainly thinks so.

The Mets entered last night’s game against the Marlins with a 7-17 record in the season’s second half. Dating back to 2009, the Mets have a less-than-stellar 97-147 mark in second halves.

“Second halves are always tough on teams that don’t stay healthy because you end up bringing young players up and playing [them] in the middle of a pennant race against teams that are really grinding it out,” Collins said. “It puts a lot of pressure on young players.

“What we’re going to try to do this year, certainly, is get back to playing the game the way we did in the first half. That’s with some confidence. That’s what getting the middle of our lineup back intact, doing some damage [will do],” Collins said. “We rode David [Wright] so much in the first half, that now he’s still having a big year but he needs some help. He can’t do it himself. You need some guys in the middle of the lineup to step up and drive in some runs. Start carrying some of the load. I think if we do that our second half is going to be fine.”

Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

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