Quintanilla fills in well at shortstop

Omar Quintanilla of the Mets during a game Omar Quintanilla of the Mets during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. (May 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since July 4, ...

Bud Harrelson was at Citi Field Tuesday night for a meet and greet and to sign copies of his new book, "Turn Two.''

Harrelson didn't expect to cross paths with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. If he had, Alderson might have been tempted to ask the 67-year-old to suit up and play shortstop for the Mets against the Phillies.

"I can't play anymore, I'm sorry," Harrelson said with a laugh. "I can't help them out."

Injuries have forced the Mets to look far and wide to find someone to play shortstop, which is only a team's most important defensive position. Last night's candidate was 30-year-old Omar Quintanilla, who was called up from Triple-A Buffalo and inserted directly into the lineup.

Omar, meet the Mets. Mets fans, meet Omar. (No, not that Omar.)

Quintanilla had quite a debut. The lefthanded batter went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles -- one off the left-centerfield wall in his first at-bat and one down the rightfield line in his third -- in the Mets' 6-3 win. He handled his only two chances in the field with aplomb.

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Quintanilla became the fifth player to start and sixth to play the position for the Mets this season, following Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeño, Justin Turner, Jordany Valdespin and David Wright.

How has a team that has had to use six shortstops in its first 50 games gone 28-22? By getting contributions from unexpected sources like Quintanilla and pitcher Jeremy Hefner, who won his first big-league game and got his first big-league hit -- a home run in the fourth inning.

"It certainly tells us that we have a lot of issues here with the health of our club when you've got to send six guys out to play shortstop and three of them are not shortstops," Collins said. "If we're going to maintain this over six months, we've got to get ourselves healthy and stay healthy."

Tejada has been out since May 7 with a right quad strain. He popped his head into the Mets' locker room Tuesday after visiting the team's doctors in Manhattan.

"Ruben just told me he's great," Collins said. "He's ready to go. That was good news. But that was from Ruben."

Tejada is, in fact, not anywhere close to ready to go, and will remain in New York for treatment instead of playing in rehab games, Alderson announced after the game.

The Mets hope Cedeño will be ready by Friday. He hasn't played since Saturday because of a calf strain that initially was called a cramp by the club.

Collins said Cedeño was "much, much improved" and could have been available in an emergency. He also said a version of that on Monday. But when Turner went out after jamming his ankle into the first-base bag on a rundown play, it was Wright who shifted over to short for the second time in two years.

"To be honest, David couldn't wait to play shortstop," Collins said.

Wright's not a shortstop, though. Neither is Turner, who started five games. Valdespin, who started one, was passed over for a call-up this time.

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Instead, the Mets shook the glove tree and went with Quintanilla, who had a .213 average in 227 big-league games with Colorado and Texas. All he did was play like an All-Star Tuesday night.

"Baseball is a tough game," Quintanilla said. "When you have games like this, you have to enjoy them."

Quintanilla is the first player whose last name begins with "Q'' to appear for the Mets. Most importantly, he's a shortstop, the only healthy one in the building for the Mets Tuesday night other than Harrelson. And yet they keep winning.

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