Terry Collins: Jason Bay will “absolutely” be a starter when he returns from DL

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Left field fill-in Kirk Nieuwenhuis has played so well that there’s been some speculation about Jason Bay returning from the disabled list as a part-time player, but Mets manager Terry Collins squashed that talk.

Collins told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that Bay will “absolutely” be a starter once he’s healthy because “he didn’t come here to be an extra player.”

Bay hasn’t played since April 23 and isn’t yet close to returning from a fractured rib, so it’s a moot point for now and by the time he’s ready to return Nieuwenhuis may have come back down to earth somewhat anyway. So far he’s hitting .294 with a .370 on-base percentage in 35 games.

In fairness to Bay he was fairly productive in 15 games before the injury, posting a .776 OPS that nearly matches Nieuwenhuis’ mark of .782. And of course he’s making $16 million this season with another $16 million due in 2013.