NEW YORK -- General manager Sandy Alderson outlined multiple reasons on Friday why the New York Mets decided to promote second-base prospect Dilson Herrera after a series-opening loss to the Washington Nationals:
Herrera had been tearing up the Pacific Coast League, batting .370 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 20 games with Las Vegas.
The Mets wanted to shake things up, having lost five of their past seven games.
Original third-base fill-in Eric Campbell is in a modest rut, hitting .105 (2-for-19) over his past five games.
Herrera tends to give teams a lift with his energy when he joins them, whether in the majors last year or minors at various levels.
Manager Terry Collins added that a lesser factor is shoring up the middle-infield defense. Shortstop Wilmer Flores has combined with Murphy to commit 10 errors. Also, the Mets have higher expectations than previous seasons, necessitating quicker moves rather than riding out slumps, Collins added.
“I think this is just a realization that we need to introduce another option,” Alderson said Friday afternoon. “We’ll see how it goes. It doesn’t mean Eric won’t be back at third base between now and the time that David comes back. But Dilson was playing very well at Las Vegas. We thought this was an opportunity.”
Alderson said Murphy will return to second base once Wright is activated from the DL. That means Herrera does not have a long-term home at second base while Murphy remains a Met.
“That’s the plan,” Alderson said.
Alderson complimented Murphy for willingly switching to third base. The GM suggested some players, asked to do so, might say, “Screw you.”
Third base actually is Murphy’s natural position, although he has played only a limited amount there in the majors. He was out early on Friday afternoon taking grounders from infield coach Tim Teufel.
“I felt comfortable out there just now,” Murphy said pregame Friday. “I know the game is going to be quicker.”
Murphy is a free agent after the season and is unlikely to be re-signed. He even could be traded in-season if a suitor arises, although no deal is considered imminent.
Murphy insisted he does not feel threatened by Herrera, the heir apparent at the position, handling second base for the next 10 days or however long Wright is absent.
“We’re trying to win baseball games,” Murphy said. “My free agency is about as far down the list as you can go when it comes to the New York Mets right now.”
Alderson said calling up Herrera is a signal that there are “assets” at Las Vegas capable of performing in the majors. He noted that in past years the Mets needed to bring in retreads like Rick Ankiel when needs arose to buy time for prospects to be MLB-ready.
“We’ve probably got four or five guys that are ready at Las Vegas right now, which is a real benefit to us,” Alderson said.
During spring training, the 21-year-old Herrera was demoted quickly to minor league camp. Collins said that primarily was a function of the Mets knowing Herrera was not breaking camp with the team and wanting to ensure the prospect got playing time to prepare for the season.
Herrera made his major league debut last Aug. 29, after Murphy landed on the DL with a left hamstring strain. He hit .220 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 59 at-bats in 2014.
Collins said Herrera initially had “tremendous energy” after the call-up, but wilted by mid-September because he had never played that long in a single season.
“Now it’s not going to be my first time,” Herrera said through an interpreter. “Now I’m not going to be nervous. All the nervousness is gone. I’m just looking forward to doing my part, to doing my best.”
Collins spoke with Las Vegas manager Wally Backman on Friday. Backman told Collins that Herrera has improved around the second-base bag -- shortening his arm action to quicken his time turning double plays.
“People in our organization think he’s going to be an above-average second baseman,” Collins said. “And that’s on both sides of the ball.”