The Mets are throwing Joe Panik right into the fire on Friday. He's starting at second base and batting eighth in the lineup for the start of a critical three-game set against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
The decision to get Panik, 28, into the lineup quickly was likely made easier by his quick decision to join the Mets after he cleared waivers on Friday when the Giants DFA'd him this week. Speaking to reporters prior to his Mets debut, Panik said picking the Mets as his next destination was nothing short of a no-brainer, explaining that New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen didn't have to do much convincing to get him to sign on the dotted line.
"(Van Wagenen) told me about the opportunity here but he honestly didn't have to sell me," Panik said referring to Robinson Cano's recent injury. "Seeing this team from afar, playing against them, hitting against this pitching staff and this team, this is definitely a place I wanted to be."
"Man, I was ecstatic," Panik added.
Along with the opportunity the Mets presented on the field, there are plenty of other reasons why Panik feels at home. That's because, New York was already home once before.
Panik attended John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., and St. John's University before the Giants made him a first-round draft pick in 2011. Not only did he play for the Queens institution, he played in the first ever game at Citi Field, before the Mets even did. On March 29, 2009, the Red Storm faced Georgetown at Citi Field and Panik, a freshman, started at shortstop.
Still, Panik has spent his entire career in the Bay Area, so there were still a little unsettled feelings coming to a new team, but most of those feelings evaporated just because it's the Mets.
"You never know in these types of situations what's going to happen. It couldn't work out any better for myself, personally. A lot of family, a lot of friends in the area. For me to coming to a club that's hot right now, in the playoff push, is very exciting," Panik said. "For me, it's a fresh start... I'm just looking to help the team any way I can. Any time you get into a playoff situation like this, it re-energizes you. It gets you excited."
And as excited as Panik is, the Mets locker room is just as pumped, according to manger Mickey Callaway.
"There's definitely a buzz in there," Callaway said.
Panik is batting .235 this year with a .627 OPS and three homers. First pitch between the Mets and Nats is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. on SNY.