The New York Mets' bench will receive more early duty than originally expected. Jason Bay's rib-cage strain and Carlos Beltran's gimpy knees mean not only is Lucas Duda coming along as, presumably, a regular player in Bay's absence. It also means outfield newcomers Scott Hairston and Willie Harris should receive more than your average playing time for backups.
Meanwhile, catcher Mike Nickeas' stay may last more than the eight games Ronny Paulino has left on his MLB suspension. Paulino's stomach/colon issues mean Josh Thole's projected backup may be placed on the disabled list when his suspension expires.
Pro: The placeholder for Ronny Paulino, Nickeas is a solid defensive catcher, who may now get an extended stay with the Mets. Initially, Nickeas only was supposed to be on the roster for the first eight games until Paulino completed a 50-game major league ban for a performance-enhancing substance. Now, Paulino also has a stomach/colon issue and may be placed on the DL when his suspension expires.
Con: Nickeas probably will struggle against MLB pitching. Despite making strides at Double-A Binghamton last season, he is a career .239 hitter in seven minor league seasons.
Projection: .215, 3 RBIs
Pro: Terry Collins and Paul DePodesta know Hu well from their days with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They portray Hu as a standout backup middle infielder. Hu may see late-inning action, replacing offensive-oriented second baseman Brad Emaus. He also has more power than it may seem.
Con: Hu has a career .191 average in 173 major league at-bats. So if Jose Reyes were to land on the disabled list, or be traded before July 31, Ruben Tejada likely would be summoned from Triple-A Buffalo rather than Hu take over the starting role.
Projection: .222, 6 HR, 29 RBIs
Pro: Murphy is a grinder who demonstrated he can handle major league pitching, at least in a small sample size. In 639 at-bats between 2008 and '09, Murphy hit .275 with 14 homers and 80 RBIs. He should be the primary lefty bat off the bench and could chip away at Brad Emaus' playing time at second base if the Rule 5 pick struggles.
Con: Defense is Murphy's liability, although it's not entirely his fault. He came up through the minors as a third baseman, was thrown into left field at the major league level without experience, then had to learn first base and now second base on the fly. Murphy did not appear in the majors last season because of a pair of injuries to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Projection: .277, 6 HR, 41 RBIs
Pro: A third-generation major leaguer whose brother Jerry Jr. plays for the Nationals, Hairston may see more action than your average No. 4 outfielder. After all, Carlos Beltran's knee woes figure to be a season-long issue and Jason Bay is now dealing with a left rib-cage strain. Hairston showed some power last season with San Diego, hitting 10 homers in 295 at-bats.
Con: Of all the outfield positions, right field is the least familiar for Hairston. He has started only three major league games there in his career. Hairston also hit only .210 last season.
Projection: .246, 9 HR, 52 RBIs
Pro: The Citi Field faithful do not need a reminder of all the game-saving catches Harris produced with the Braves and then the Nationals at the expense of the Mets. Among the dramatic grabs: With the bases loaded, two out and the Mets trailing by a run last April 10, Rod Barajas sent a line drive to left field. Harris responded with a sprawling, game-ending catch to preserve the Nationals' 4-3 win at Citi Field.
Con: Harris hit only .183 in 224 at-bats last season with Washington, although his power numbers were passable. The lefty-hitting outfielder contributed 10 homers.
Projection: .244, 7 HR, 31 RBIs