Kirk Nieuwenhuis suffers knee injury

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Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, battling for a job in spring training, suffered a knee injury this afternoon during a game against the Miami Marlins. In the seventh inning, Nieuwenhuis attempted to steal second and came up limping. The 25-year-old says he simply bruised his left knee badly, but he had to be transported via cart from the dugout to the clubhouse.

More, from Adam Rubin:

“It was on the slide,” Nieuwenhuis said. “I just hit it on something. Hopefully it’s just a bad bruise. When I went to go take my lead, it just kind of buckled a little bit, but I think the ligaments are OK. I haven’t seen a doctor yet, but I think I just have got a bad bruise. … I don’t think it’s that bad.”

The Mets entered camp with a surfeit of questions surrounding their outfield and now must add one more. Jordany Valdespin, already helping himself with a .412 average in 17 spring at-bats, seems the likely successor in the absence of Nieuwenhuis. Valdespin, though, has been used exclusively at second base so far.

Nieuwenhuis impressed early in 2012, posting a .325 average in April. The struggles began to mount and his average plummeted, hitting .263 in May, .238 in June, and .105 in July. The Mets then optioned him to Triple-A Buffalo. After only five games, he had to be shelved with a nagging plantar fasciitis injury. The Mets certainly hope the lack of concern by Nieuwenhuis is more accurate than wishful thinking.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.