ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mets' impending outfield crunch will not affect Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Lucas Duda, manager Terry Collins said Thursday, though all four of the team's primary outfielders will see increased bench time with the Mets heading back to National League play.
Collins explained that Duda will continue to play most days in right field, though he could rest sporadically against left-handers in an effort to put Scott Hairston in the lineup. Jason Bay should also continue to see regular playing time in left despite his struggles since returning from the disabled list. And Nieuwenhuis, who hit his first career leadoff home run Thursday, will settle into a center field platoon with Andres Torres.
"One thing it does, it keeps everybody rested," Collins said. "It keeps everybody in the game. It always gives you a quality at-bat off the bench. I just think as we get into the hot months, at least we know our outfielders are going to be fresh."
The Mets have not had to worry about their outfield alignment for the past week, playing six consecutive games with a designated hitter in American League parks. But they are done playing in AL venues for the rest of the season, meaning their four primary outfielders will all have to jockey for at-bats on a daily basis.
Playing time should suffer initially for Hairston and Duda, with the Mets facing a run of three right-handed starters this weekend against the Reds. But no one should sit for too many games in a row.
"We're just really lucky that we've got that many talented people here," Collins said. "We'll do the best job we can to make sure they all stay sharp. Whatever we've got to do to do that, we'll figure it out."
Dickey's place in history in MLB's hands
ST. PETERSBURG -- R.A. Dickey joked that if Major League Baseball does transform his one-hitter into a no-no, he and catcher Mike Nickeas will have to orchestrate a faux celebration back at Citi Field, celebrating on the pitcher's mound as if the feat just happened.
"It would be weird," Dickey said Thursday, one day after his controversial one-hitter. "I don't know if it would be quite as satisfying. I think the asterisk beside the no-hitter would get more attention than the no-hitter."
Neither the no-no nor the asterisk is likely to come, though the Mets have officially petitioned MLB to change B.J. Upton's first-inning single to an error on third baseman David Wright. A successful appeal would give the Mets their second no-hitter in 12 days, after going more than 50 years and 8,000 games without one.
But manager Terry Collins, who put the process in motion, estimated the chances of a successful appeal at less than 5 percent. Collins expects to hear back from MLB by Friday, now that assistant general manager John Ricco has filed the appropriate paperwork to the league.
"We're just taking a shot," Collins said. "We're just taking a stab. What do we have to lose? Nothing."
Dickey was not so sure, sounding somewhat embarrassed that MLB would consider overturning the ruling.
"A part of me would love a no-hitter," said Dickey, who pitched two no-hitters in high school but none since then. "Regardless of how you get it, it's still a no-hitter. And then a part of me thinks it would be cheap."
The play in question came with two outs in the first inning, when Upton hit a slow two-hopper down the third-base line. Believing he had no shot to field the ball with his glove and throw out the speedy Upton, Wright attempted to barehand it but could not do so cleanly. Within seconds, Tropicana Field's official scorer ruled it a hit.
"It's a little awkward when a team wants an error on its own player," Wright said. "I wish I could have made the play. I just didn't. It's a very difficult play."
It did not seem notable until Dickey mowed down the next 22 batters in succession, allowing no other baserunners until Wright committed a more obvious error in the ninth. Dickey capped his one-hitter shortly thereafter, striking out 12 and walking none in a performance arguably more dominant than Johan Santana's no-hitter.
But the knuckleballer noted that the later innings might have unfolded entirely differently with a no-hitter intact. Unlike Santana, who was cognizant of history as he finished off his June 1 no-no against the Cardinals, Dickey faced the Rays without any pressure of a potential career-defining feat.
Now, his legacy is up to Major League Baseball. The league's executive vice president of baseball operations, Joe Torre, said Thursday that he expected to consult former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, among others, before coming to a decision.
"Even though I make these decisions on scoring on a daily basis, obviously what's at stake here, I just want to make sure we give the decision every opportunity to get more than my opinion," Torre said on a conference call to discuss his appointment as Team USA's manager in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. "I have an opinion, from what I've seen."
So does Wright.
"If they want to give me an error, they can give me an error," the third baseman said. "It's a very difficult play, and I feel terrible that that's the one hit. But I did what I can do. There's not much more than I could do than that."
Turner inching closer to return to Mets
ST. PETERSBURG -- Though Ruben Tejada continues to rehab slowly from a strained right quad, two of his shortstop backups are nearing big league returns.
Justin Turner was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Buffalo, working his way back from a sprained right ankle and ligament damage in his right foot. And Ronny Cedeno is set to begin his own rehab assignment from a strained left calf the following day.
Though Turner could be ready to rejoin the Mets as soon as Sunday, manager Terry Collins said he would first like to make sure his utility infielder is 100-percent healthy. That could delay his return into next week.
As for Tejada, the shortstop jogged Thursday on his strained right quad but is nowhere near a return. Tejada has suffered multiple setbacks since landing on the disabled list May 7 with the injury.
Until Cedeno returns, Omar Quintanilla will remain the Mets' primary shortstop.
REO Speedwagon will headline the first installment of the Mets' Citi Field concert series following Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Reds. Tickets start at $20, are available on mets.com and include admission to the game and concert.