Mets consider keeping Wigginton at first

Updated: July 25, 2004, 1:21 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- This business of playing first base could become a long-term affair for Ty Wigginton with the New York Mets thinking about increasing Mike Piazza's catching duties.

The conversion of Piazza into a first baseman has hit some speed bumps with the catcher often struggling defensively at the new position. He is currently nursing a sprained left wrist from a collision as he reached for a throw against Florida on Tuesday night.

Piazza figures to miss several more days with the injury and when he returns to the lineup, it could be back behind the plate, where he has hit more home runs than any catcher in the history of baseball. It's a thought that has occurred to manager Art Howe.

"I've talked to Mike about increasing his catching time," Howe said Saturday. "He said, 'Whatever you think. Whatever will help the team win games, I'm willing to do it.'

"That's the way he is."

Wigginton, the regular third baseman, has moved seamlessly from one position to another this season, filling in at second base while the team waited for Jose Reyes to recover from hamstring and back problems, back to third and then on to first after Piazza got hurt and David Wright was called up.

For Howe, the Wigginton position switch brought back memories of his playing days in Houston.

"I was a third baseman and first base became my position," he said. "They brought in Ray Knight and for me to keep playing, I moved to first base. Next thing, I was the first baseman. As long as you get the opportunity, you might find out you like first base."

His tour of the Mets infield is all right with Wigginton, as long as it keeps his name in the lineup every day.

"My goal is to play every day and it doesn't matter where I play," he said. "There are tons of ways to look at it. One of the ways is I think I've proven I can play third base. A lot of teams know that. I think I've proven I can play second base. I can play that every day.

"First base is the easiest position on the diamond. It helps that I'm an infielder and I know the target infielders want. If first base gets me on the field seven days a week, it's fine with me."

Wigginton has been the Mets most consistent hitter since an early season bout with an ulcer sent him to the disabled list for two weeks. That's why it's tempting for Howe to keep him in a lineup that is often offensively challenged.

That means finding other work for Piazza when he's well enough to play again and the logical place is behind the plate, where he was when this all started.

With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, Wigginton's name keeps coming up in talks as the Mets search for pitching help. His versatility could be a plus in those conversations.

Howe said the Mets are in no rush to trade Wigginton.

"We like him on the club," he said. "Unless it's an outstanding deal for us, I don't think we move him."

Except from one position to another.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press