Collins said once Torres is healthy and is activated from the disabled list, he will assume his position in centerfield.
Presumably, that means Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be returning to Triple-A Buffalo, considering he is unlikely to get the necessary playing time he needs to continue to mature and develop at the Major League level.
Look, I realize the reasons why the Mets acquired Torres. He brings a veteran leadership to the clubhouse and is a strong defensive centerfielder. Aside from the various injuries he's had this season, he's done nothing to deserve losing his everyday job in centerfield. However, it's hard to ignore what Nieuwenhuis has done with the bat either. Despite his home run last night, he does need to prove he can hit left-handed pitching consistently, and shorten his swing with two strikes in order to limit his strikeouts and make more contact in pitcher's counts.
There are a number of implications to sending Nieuwenhuis down, should they decide to do so. Despite the team's good start, it is clear the course of this franchise is to re-develop from within and build a homegrown core of players who are under team control for a long time. They are clearly in that evaluation mode right now at all levels of the organization and are still transitioning from the problems of yesteryear into a new era for the franchise. With that strategy, it is necessary to afford opportunities to players such as Nieuwenhuis when possible. That doesn't mean the franchise is far away from contention - it's a defined strategy in their intent to be a contending team year after year.
As it was suggested during last night's broadcast, if the Mets do in fact send Nieuwenhuis back to Triple-A Buffalo, what kind of message does that send to both Nieuwenhuis and to other minor leaguers? What kind of mental impact would a demotion have on Nieuwenhuis after enjoying success at the big league level? Making it clear a player can earn his keep through merit would undoubtedly serve as a positive message throughout the organization, and also reiterate the program they are implementing at all levels of the franchise.
Now, Torres is still not close to returning and ultimately I expect Torres to give way to Nieuwenhuis anyway, making Torres a fourth outfielder. With that said, if Nieuwenhuis continues to prove what he's capable of doing now, or, goes into a slump but manages it well, he will further establish himself as a Major League player and he should remain the everyday centerfielder when Torres does in fact return.
Nieuwenhuis is a fun story to follow as a fan. He's also easy to root for, probably because he comes from within and it's great to watch young players like this evolve into productive Major League players, enjoying their successes and learning from their failures. I hope it continues with Nieuwenhuis.