NEW YORK—Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis made the move from the minor league clubhouse to the major league side, lugging his bats across the Port St. Lucie, Fla., spring training complex and stuffing them into his new locker.
He used the same locker a year ago when he received an invitation to big league camp, but the 23-year-old Nieuwenhuis believes that his stay will be different this time around.
The Mets quickly shuttled Nieuwenhuis back to the minor league side in 2010, giving him just a taste of action in big league camp. He learned his way around, but he knew he never really had a shot to make an impact on the major league squad.
Nieuwenhuis batted .289/.337/.510 with 16 homers in 394 at-bats for Double-A Binghamton last season, earning both a place on the Eastern League all-star squad and a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo in August. While he still may be a bit too early for prime time, the center fielder is moving closer.
"I think I still obviously need to work on some stuff," Nieuwenhuis said. "I just focus on what I can do, what I can control. I just kind of put my head down and go to work, see where the cards fall."
A third-round pick from NAIA Azusa Pacific (Calif.) in 2008, Nieuwenhuis faces long odds of making the big league club this season. His prospects improve following the season, when the Mets will almost certainly shed Carlos Beltran. That, and the organization's emphasis on reducing payroll, bode well for young talent like Nieuwenhuis.
"Ultimately that's not my decision," he said. "I'm just here to play. They put my name in that lineup card (and) I'm ready to play. How often that is or where it is, that's not my decision. Wherever I'm going to be I'm going to play and play hard."
Nieuwenhuis knows that reaching the major league clubhouse last spring helped him to reach this point.
"I know a little bit better what to expect," he said. "Now, I'm a little bit more focused. Last year, it was feeling it out. Not that I wasn't focused, but it was the first time just trying to soak it up from the other guys. I'm a little more focused on the game this time, ready to go."
• New York signed righthander Jason Isringhausen, 38, to a minor league deal. The former Mets phenom appeared in seven games last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
• The Mets removed righty Tobi Stoner and outfielder Jason Pridie from the 40-man roster to make room for former Padres Scott Hairston and Chris Young.