On-Base Perception

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Pregame No. 1: Collin Cowgill's big break

COLLIN COWGILL, outfielder Few enjoyed a stronger camp

COLLIN COWGILL, outfielder
Few enjoyed a stronger camp than Cowgill, whose speed and athleticism put him in line for at least a platoon job in center field against lefthanded pitchers. | (Credit: AP)

When Collin Cowgill arrived with the Mets via a trade this winter, he hoped that his opportunity had finally come. Cowgill had already bounced from the Diamondbacks to the Athletics. He didn't stick in either place.

But with the Mets, Cowgill has earned the first shot at hanging onto a job as the starting center fielder.

"You always hope that's the case," said Cowgill, who will lead off Monday's season opener against the Padres. "Obviously, it's very satisfying at this point. I've still got a lot of work to do. Just because I have a job now doesn't mean I get it for the whole year."

Considering the state of the Mets outfield, it would be wise to expect plenty of changes. Manager Terry Collins seemed to say as much during his pregame media briefing.

"We need to find out," Collins said. "We need to find out right now what Collin Cowgill is going to be about for us."

-- Padres righthander Edinson Volquez has a reverse split for his career. Lefthanders have a .737 OPS against Volquez while righties are at .758. That only seemed to help Cowgill land his first Opening Day start. It will be witnessed by his father, who drove 12 hours north from Kentucky to see it in person.

-- Jordany Valdespin has been told to keep working in the outfield. Just like Cowgill, the lefty-hitting Valdespin excelled in the spring, positioning himself for plenty of playing time eventually. Collins also tossed Valdespin's name into the potential mix for leadoff hitters this season.

"It can be 1-0 in a hurry," Collins said of Cowgill and Valdespin. "They bring that energy. They're very aggressive on the bases, and if a mistake's made, they can hit it over the fence."

-- Shortstop Ruben Tejada, who had been a leadoff candidate entering the season, will hit eighth against the Padres after a spring filled with massive struggles at the plate. As he's done in the last week, Collins once again threw his support behind Tejada, who hit .289 last season.

"He reassured me he will be ready and he will be the same guy that I've seen in the past during the season," Collins said. "I cannot explain what happened in spring training, why he didn't swing the bat the way he's capable of."

-- The revamped Mets bullpen will go with a committee approach in the seventh and eighth innings ahead of closer Bobby Parnell. While the veteran Brandon Lyon figures to play a prominent role, Collins said he intends to mix and match by situation.

Submariner Greg Burke and lefty Scott Rice -- longtime minor leaguers on an Opening Day roster for the first time in their careers -- will be used as long relievers if needed. Collins said both could pitch as much as two innings apiece.

The starting lineups:

Padres
Chris Denofria RF
Everth Cabrera SS
Yonder Alonso 1B
Carlos Quentin LF
Jedd Gyorko 2B
Nick Hundley C
Cameron Maybin CF
Cody Ransom 3B
Edinson Volquez RHP

Mets
Collin Cowgill CF
Daniel Murphy 2B
David Wright 3B
Ike Davis 1B
Marlon Byrd RF
Lucas Duda LF
John Buck C
Ruben Tejada SS
Jonathon Niese LHP

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