Mets name Collin Cowgill their starting center fielder

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After being acquired from the Athletics during the offseason, Collin Cowgill will open 2013 as the Mets’ full-time center fielder.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Mets manager Terry Collins made the announcement following this afternoon’s Grapefruit League finale against the Orioles. He’s planning to go with Cowgill in center field, flanked by Lucas Duda in left field and Marlon Byrd in right.

Cowgill earned the job by batting .303 (20-for-66) with five home runs, 10 RBI, four stolen bases and a .969 OPS in 26 games this spring. The 26-year-old didn’t get much of an opportunity during his limited time with the Diamondbacks and Athletics, but the Mets are hoping that he can emerge as a useful everyday player.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis began spring training as the as the favorite for the starting center fielder job, but he’ll open the year as a backup after seeing limited playing time in the Grapefruit League due to a knee injury. Jordany Valdespin was impressive this spring and could work his way into playing time if anyone struggles.

The Mets outfield batted just .237/.312/.393 with a collective 2.1 fWAR last season. With Duda, Cowgill, Byrd, Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin and Mike Baxter, this year’s group doesn’t instill much in the way of confidence, but it might not take much for them to be an improvement over 2012.

Brewers claim Stephen Vogt off waivers from the Athletics

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported on Sunday that the Brewers claimed catcher Stephen Vogt off waivers from the Athletics. Vogt was designated for assignment by the Athletics on Thursday.

Vogt, 32, was an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, but struggled this year. He hit .217/.287/.357 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 174 plate appearances.

With the Brewers, Vogt will likely split time behind the plate with Manny Pina. Meanwhlie, the Athletics’ catching situation will be handled by Josh Phegley and Bruce Maxwell.

Dallas Keuchel is unlikely to return before the All-Star break

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Astros’ left-hander Dallas Keuchel might not return to the rotation before the All-Star break, Houston manager A.J. Hinch told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. The club placed their star southpaw on the 10-day disabled list on June 8, retroactive to June 5, after a nerve issue was revealed in his neck.

Keuchel has taken a conservative approach to his recovery over the last several weeks, and while he appears to have made some progress, still has yet to throw off the mound. The injury interrupted the start of an outstanding run with the Astros, during which the 29-year-old lefty furnished a 9-0 record with a 1.67 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 through his first 75 2/3 innings of 2017.

According to Hinch, it’s certainly possible that Keuchel could return to the team sometime within the next two weeks, but it’s clear that the team would prefer to play it extra safe with their ace. Even assuming that he feels ready to reclaim his spot on the Astros’ pitching staff, he still needs to complete a few key activities before competing in another game — like throwing off a mound, for example. In the meantime, Lance McCullers Jr. will continue to head Houston’s rotation as they try to build on their 12.5-game lead in the AL West.

 

Hinch’s full comments are below: