DENVER -- The Mets will have a new center fielder and leadoff hitter when they take the field tonight in Houston.
Andres Torres will be activated from the disabled list after missing the last 3½ weeks recovering from a strained left calf he aggravated on Opening Day. Torres’ return means Kirk Nieuwenhuis will shift to left field and drop from the leadoff spot.
Though manager Terry Collins plans to give Nieuwenhuis most of the playing time in left with Jason Bay on the disabled list, Scott Hairston will start tomorrow and Wednesday, because lefties J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez are scheduled to pitch for the Astros.
R.A. Dickey and the rest of the Mets dress in western garb for their flight from Denver to Houston yesterday." title="DEADEYE DICKEY: Watch out Astros, there’s a new sheriff in town, as R.A. Dickey and the rest of the Mets dress in western garb for their flight from Denver to Houston yesterday." width="300" height="450" src="/rw/nypost/2012/04/30/sports/web_photos/sheriff--300x450.jpg" />
New York Mets
DEADEYE DICKEY: Watch out Astros, there’s a new sheriff in town, as R.A. Dickey and the rest of the Mets dress in western garb for their flight from Denver to Houston yesterday.
In the Mets’ 6-5 victory in 11 innings over the Rockies yesterday, Nieuwenhuis made a full-extension diving catch in the fifth inning to rob Jonathan Herrera of a double. Even so, Collins indicated he is more comfortable letting the veteran Torres play his natural position, in center.
Torres will give the Mets a legitimate base-stealing threat. The team ranks last in the National League with six stolen bases.
“There are not very many opportunities to run, because we don’t have that guy we know that can steal,” Collins said. “[Torres] would bring that dimension for sure.”
Zach Lutz will be optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, the team announced, clearing roster space for Torres.
Mike Baxter continues to thrive as a pinch-hitter. Baxter’s single off the bench in the 10th inning set the stage for Nieuwenhuis’ RBI double that gave the Mets a 5-4 lead.
Baxter is 5-for-11 (.455) as a pinch hitter this season.
“He’s done a tremendous job for a guy who has never done this job before,” Collins said. “The role that Mike Baxter is playing is normally done by a veteran guy, a guy who knows how to prepare, knows how to pinch hit.”
Ruben Tejada finished 3-for-6 and completed the three-game series with 10 hits. The last Mets player to accomplish that feat was Edgardo Alfonzo from April 28-30, 2000 against the Rockies.
Tejada was 10-for-17 (.588) with five runs scored in the three games.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was at the game and had his picture taken with R.A. Dickey and Todd Helton. Manning, Helton and Dickey were all student-athletes together at Tennessee in the mid-1990s. … The Mets’ Western garb from yesterday won’t be their last dress-up theme of the season. Collins said there will be a hockey theme when the Mets visit Toronto in late May.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, The Mets, manager Terry Collins, Nieuwenhuis, R.A. Dickey, R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston, Mike Baxter, Wandy Rodriguez, DICKEY, leadoff hitter, Ruben Tejada