SAN DIEGO - Earlier this season, when the Mets first experimented with a four-man bench, manager Terry Collins issued a standing order to selected members of the pitching staff.
Come the seventh inning, they were asked to change into spikes. At any moment, one of them could be asked to grab a bat, or run the bases.
Now, with the Mets once again playing a man short, pitchers will once again be on alert.
"Certain parts of the game, I'm not opposed to running Noah Syndergaard up there or Jake deGrom up there to move a runner along instead of having to use a position player," Collins said on Wednesday.
And in certain situations, Collins said, deGrom and Syndergaard might also be called upon to swing the bat.
Syndergaard, 22, does not have a pinch-hitting appearance in the minors or in the big leagues. But the 6-6 righthander already has proved capable of handing the bat, going 4-for-10, including a mammoth 430-foot homer.
"I like to hit, it's fun," Syndergaard said. "It's fun to compete against pitchers and see how far you can hit a baseball. It's something pitchers typically aren't good at. So when you succeed at it, it's kind of rewarding."
DeGrom also has rewarded the Mets at the plate. A former college shortstop, he is hitting .211 in the big leagues.
With Michael Cuddyer out with a stiff neck Wednesday night against the Padres, rookie Darrell Ceciliani started in leftfield in his place. That left Syndergaard and deGrom as the only lefthanded bats off the bench.
"I'm hoping it's only for today," Collins said of Cuddyer, who missed two days in spring training with a similar ailment.
Cuddyer's injury underscored how vulnerable the Mets could be with a short bench, a necessity with a six-man rotation.
Infielder Danny Muno was demoted on Tuesday night when the Mets activated Dillon Gee for his start Wednesday night.
The shortage of bodies also has forced Collins to consider using backup catcher Anthony Recker as a pinch hitter, a move that managers typically steer clear of making for fear of being left without a catcher.
Of course, Collins' options have been limited because of an underperforming bench that has become a liability.
Entering play Wednesday night, Mets pinch hitters were batting just .121, the lowest mark in the National League. And none of the Mets' four primary bench players have an average better than .200.
Recker had hit two homers but was batting .176. Eric Campbell tailed off after a strong start and was hitting .179.
The Mets signed John Mayberry Jr. to a free-agent deal in the offseason to give them a presence against lefties. But he was hitting only .137.
"You can't worry about what they're doing right now, can't let it get to you," said Collins, who has relied on past matchups to determine his use of pinch hitters.
Ceciliani was promoted after the Mets cut ties with the struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who eventually was traded to the Angels. But Ceciliani began the day hitting .143 while adjusting to a bench role.
"It's been a learning process," he said.
Collins, however, said he's been encouraged with the quality of Ceciliani's recent at-bats.
"He's actually put some good swings on the ball," Collins said. "We're hoping that he's a guy that starts to rise up and can help us."
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