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Mets promote Juan Lagares from Triple-A, demote Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Juan Lagares flys out to left in his

Juan Lagares flys out to left in his first major-league at bat in the fifth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. (April 23, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

If not for a red-eye flight from Colorado Springs, and perhaps Clayton Kershaw on the mound, Juan Lagares likely would have started Tuesday night in centerfield rather than Collin Cowgill. And now that Lagares has been promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he had a .929 OPS in 17 games, expect to see less Cowgill, not more.

"I always think when you bring a young player like this to the major leagues, you've got to find out if he can help you," Terry Collins said, "and the only way to find that out is to get him in the lineup. So we're going to do that."

Lagares was inserted in the top of the fifth inning in centerfield and in the ninth spot in the lineup. He went flew out to left in first at-bat, and singled to left in his second.

With Ted Lilly and Hyun-Jin Ryu starting the next two games for the Dodgers, the righthanded-hitting Lagares, 24, will get an immediate opportunity to help. While the offensive production got the Mets' attention -- Lagares also had a pair of triples and two homers -- Collins gave him high praise as a defender as well.

"There are people in this organization that think he's a better centerfielder than Matt den Dekker," Collins said. "That says a lot."

As for the demotion of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collins said the lack of playing time in spring training because of injury hurt his preparation. Nieuwenhuis was batting .125 (2-for-16) with eight strikeouts. "He has to really concentrate on his two-strike approach," Collins said.

Dodgers arms dwindling

Chad Billingsley became the latest pitching casualty for the Dodgers after the team announced he will undergo Tommy John surgery. Billingsley had tried to pitch with a partially torn ligament, which forced him to be shut down last August, and he went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts before he was placed on the DL last Sunday complaining of elbow pain.

After beginning the year with a rotation that went eight-deep, it shrunk to four with Ted Lilly coming off the DL for tonightTuesday night's start. "We're still in pretty good shape," Don Mattingly said. "It's not like we've lost everybody. We just had a flood of it really quick."

Extra bases

Sandy Koufax, who has reconnected with the Dodgers and threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in LA, showed up with the visiting club at Citi Field. That's a switch for Fred Wilpon's former teammate from Lafayette High as Koufax used to be an annual guest at the Mets' spring-training complex.

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