Kirk Nieuwenhuis is excited for Spring Training

Last season, while playing center field for the New York Mets Triple-A Buffalo affiliate, Kirk Nieuwenhuis recorded professional career highs in batting average (.294), on-base percentage (.403), and OPS (.908).  The 24-year-old lefty was poised for a summer call up while in the midst of arguably his best overall season in the minors.

Unfortunately, an injury to his left shoulder in late May led to a DL stint in early June and eventually cost the youngster the rest of the season, something that wasn’t easy for him to handle.  According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Nieuwenhuis felt like he missed out on an opportunity:

I felt like I was so close to being there, and now I’m kind of in stall mode,” Nieuwenhuis said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “It was hard to sit on the couch and watch my teammates play.  It was frustrating not being out there, as it is with any injury. But being in the middle of a big year like that, it was a little more frustrating, for sure.”

Last year Kirk was listed as the team’s #5 overall prospect heading into the season by Matt Eddy of Baseball America and this year the former third round out of Azusa Pacific University finds himself two spots lower, at #7.  The competition, according to DiComo’s post (click here to read in full), seems to be a driving force for Nieuwenhuis:

“I am who I am, and I’m not going to try to be somebody I’m not,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Being around that kind of competition and that caliber of guys, even in the Minor Leagues, it’s a lot of fun just to grow with each other and see each others progress.”

 

Photo by Michael G. Baron

Back in December, Collins listed Nieuwenhuis among a list of Mets prospects he believed could make their major league debut in 2012, but all of that will depend on the strength of his shoulder.  Spring Training will be his opportunity to show everyone not only that he is healthy, but that he is ready to take the next step.

I’m itching to play again,” said Nieuwenhuis, who will report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., more than a week early. “It feels like forever since I’ve played a game. I’m just super excited to get back into it and get back in the swing of things. I’m more excited for this Spring Training than I’ve ever been.”

With only Andres Torres seemingly blocking his path to Queens, Kirk is not the only one who is excited about what this Spring holds for him as fans will be hoping that he can make the leap to the next level sooner, rather than later.

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