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Mets consider keeping Wigginton at first

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.