DENVER -- An issue throughout recent weeks, the Mets' outfield depth diminished further on Tuesday, when the team placed Jay Bruce on the disabled list due to continued right hip soreness. Bruce has been battling hip, back and foot issues in recent weeks, forcing him to miss four of the team's previous five games.
Attempting to play through his various aches and pains, Bruce was batting .212 with a .613 OPS prior to his DL assignment. He had not homered since May 7, a stretch of 113 plate appearances, and his defense had notably suffered.
"The more and more we talked about it, the more and more we dug, he was really hurting," manager Mickey Callaway said. "So we made the decision to go ahead and put him on the DL, and get him right, so he can be the impactful player he can be."
Although Bruce sat out three games in Arizona, he started Sunday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Had the Mets placed Bruce on the DL before the first of the games he missed, he would have been able to return Sunday against the Dodgers at Citi Field. As it is, the Mets can backdate his DL stint only one day, making May 29 in Miami his earliest possible return date.
"We did what we thought might help him the most at that point in time," Callaway said. "And we're doing what we think will help him the most now. The hard thing is to predict how long these things are going to linger. I think we all felt that a few days off would help, and it didn't."
To replace Bruce on the roster, the Mets recalled reliever Tim Peterson from Triple-A Las Vegas, wanting to carry an extra reliever for their next three games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. They will re-evaluate their roster mix prior to this weekend's series against the Dodgers.
No matter what they do, however, the Mets don't have any obvious starting outfield candidates to call up from Triple-A Las Vegas. Bruce's absence leaves them with just three healthy outfielders on their 40-man roster: Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jose Bautista. Infielders Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes also have brief histories at the position, and the Mets have recently begin exposing first baseman Dominic Smith to the outfield, as well.
Smith started there Tuesday against the Rockies, with Callaway indicating that he and Bautista will be the Mets' primary options in left field. Although the Mets did not play Smith in the outfield until late last month, they believe his offensive potential is worth his defensive limitations at a new position -- even at Coors Field, which features Major League Baseball's most expansive outfield.
"I'm excited to get out there and run around, and just enjoy myself and be a little kid again," said Smith, who has lost more than 30 pounds since the end of last season. "If you asked me last year when I was at Triple-A, at the size I was, if you would have told me next June you'll be playing outfield in the big leagues, I wouldn't have believed you at all."
When the Mets first told Smith he would receive outfield reps at Triple-A Las Vegas, he had a glove overnighted to the clubhouse there. But because it wasn't broken in, he asked pitcher Kyle Regnault to play catch with it in the afternoons, while Smith used one of teammate Matt den Dekker's gloves during games.
Not until last Friday, when Smith played three innings in left for the first time in his big league career, did he try out his new glove -- a Wilson A2K with a two-toned leather design -- in a game.
"Hopefully," Smith said, "it catches as good as it looks."