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Matt den Dekker returns to Citi Field, where it all began

Mets center fielder Matthew den Dekker reacts while

Mets center fielder Matthew den Dekker reacts while at bat against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning of an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Matt den Dekker is back where it all started.

After a slow offseason in free agency, den Dekker signed a late minor-league contract with the Mets, and was called up Wednesday — along with righthanded reliever Jacob Rhame. The team optioned Drew Gagnon, Tuesday’s starting pitcher, and outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski to Triple-A.

The 30-year-old Mets outfielder made his major-league debut at Citi Field against the Phillies on August 29, 2013. On Wednesday, as den Dekker made his drive back to where his professional career began, he couldn’t help but think back to his first time in a Mets uniform.

“It was a cool feeling coming in because obviously I made my debut here in this clubhouse,” den Dekker said. “A lot of these guys I came up with, and that was kind of the thing signing back with them in the offseason — knowing that I had a chance to get back here and get a shot where it started at.”

Den Dekker, a lefty who batted sixth and started in centerfield Wednesday against the Phillies, said he felt comfortable with the Mets coaches, clubhouse and thought he’d have an opportunity to contribute when he signed a minor-league contract February 15.

The outfielder signed with the Mets two days before spring training started this offseason, making his return after being traded to Washington for lefthanded reliever Jerry Blevins on March 30, 2015. Den Dekker played 74 games over two seasons with the Nationals, bouncing between Washington and Triple-A, hitting .233 with six home runs in the majors.

He signed a minor-league contract with the Marlins after the 2016 season, but opted out of his deal in May 2017 and signed with the Tigers. He spent the majority of the 2017 season in the minors, appearing in four major-league games with Detroit last year.

Den Dekker, who missed more than three weeks in June with a knee bruise following a collision, hit .286 with 11 home runs and a .860 OPS in Las Vegas this year. He had 27 extra-base hits in 63 games.

Wednesday was his first major-league game since July 2, 2017.

Den Dekker hit .238 with one home run in 80 games over two seasons with the Mets before being traded to Washington. After bouncing around the league and the majors and minors the last few years, he believes he can help the Mets.

“Just go out there and try to play hard every day and I’m going to put good at-bats together and try to do what I can to help the team win,” den Dekker said.

Working with the Mets throughout spring training, he got a good feeling about manager Mickey Callaway, and is excited to interact with him.

“He was great in spring training,” den Dekker said. “Positive all the time and I’ve been around since spring training, so I’m looking forward to getting out here and playing and being with the team.”

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