Collins says Bay will ‘Absolutely’ get starting job back

New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay has missed the teams past 21 games with a rib injury, but the 33-year-old was cleared to resume baseball activities Tuesday and according to Anthony McCarron of the Daily News, his manager made it clear that his starting job will be waiting when he returns.

Photo by Michael G. Baron

Terry Collins knows there’s a dilemma waiting when Jason Bay is healthy enough to return to the Mets.

But it sounds as if any choices Collins and the Mets may be forced to make then will be about how to get Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing time because Bay, who was finally cleared by doctors Tuesday to resume baseball activities after bruising his ribs April 23, is getting his left-field job back when he returns.

“Absolutely,” Collins said Tuesday. “He didn’t come here to be an extra player.”

Not sure that logic is the best way to go.  He may not have come here to be an ‘extra player’ and I’m sure he didn’t arrive on the New York scene with thoughts of being ‘below average’ (to put it kindly), but that’s exactly how he’s performed.  I’m sure Bay had the best of intentions when he agreed to his $66-million deal with Mets, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations while a youngster like Kirk Nieuwenhuis has far exceeded his.

I understand the argument for getting a productive right-handed bat in the line-up, which is something Collins has pointed to when referencing Bay’s return.

He’s still a big part of this. I think you see, when we face lefthanded pitching, what a big hole we have in the middle of our lineup without him.”

Look, if you told me Jason Bay of 2009 were going to step in and fill that role there would be no argument, but there’s no reason to believe that’s what we’ll see.

My guess is that Terry is doing his best to give Bay a firm vote of confidence so that he doesn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder and can focus on his rehab and reaching his ceiling when he gets back with the big club.  Where that ceiling now stands is anyone’s guess, but if his time in New York is any indication, I’d warn him to watch his head when standing up.

Photo by Michael G. Baron

I’ll be rooting for Bay to return to form as much as the next guy, but I still think he should have been forced to earn his job back because his performance to date hasn’t warranted an ‘automatic’ full-time role.  Even if this is the route Terry and company choose to go, I hope they don’t remain in denial if Bay’s struggles continue.  There has to come a time when you suck it up and choose productivity over paychecks.

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