It's unclear right now just how long Carlos Delgado will be sidelined with the hip injury that sent him to the disabled list. That, in turn, makes it hard for the Mets to figure out how to proceed in his absence. If they were guaranteed to have him back in two weeks, they'd just play Fernando Tatis and grit their teeth until he returned to the lineup.
That won't do for the rest of the season, however, which means that the team has to be prepared with a backup plan. Making that backup plan harder to formulate is the team's odd handling of Daniel Murphy.
All through Spring Training, Jerry Manuel said that Murphy would be the team's everyday left fielder. His fielding was poor, but that was to be expected. Murphy was on the team because he could hit, and he hit .324 in April and got off to a solid start in May when Manuel pulled the rug out from under him. He's started just five of the last 10 games and is mired in a 2-for-21 slump that Manuel himself admits is due to the sudden change in playing time.
"I don’t think Murphy is swinging quite as well right now," Manuel said. "I don’t see the quick hands, and it’s probably mechanical and fundamental right now for him not playing on a consistent basis like he’d like to be."
So he isn't hitting well because he isn't playing enough and he isn't playing because he isn't hitting. Welcome to Catch-22, Murphy, and enjoy yourself.
If Murphy's bat wasn't enough to keep him in the lineup in left, how will it be enough to keep him in the lineup at first base? That's been one of the Delgado replacement strategies bandied about, but switching his position will be hard enough without Manuel's tinkering getting in the way, but it will be nearly impossible if he's worrying about getting benched every day. If there isn't a comfort level with him being in the lineup because of his glove, he should be in the minors improving those skills until they're ready to play him.
The Mets need to figure it out either way, though, because if Murphy isn't playing every day they need to get someone who can. A rotating mix of Murphy, Tatis, Jeremy Reed and Gary Sheffield won't get it done in left field and first base if Delgado's out for the long haul.