Neil Walker makes first major league start at first base

Who’s on first? It’s a question Mets fans have had to repeatedly ask themselves lately as the club continues to use a revolving door of players at the position, with Neil Walker being the latest Met thrown into the mix.

Walker started at first base for the first time in his major league career Tuesday night against the Rangers at Citi Field. The 31-year-old infielder previously played first base following a double-switch during the Mets’ 8-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. It was the first time Walker had played the position in a game at any level in seven years.

Mets manager Terry Collins said he’s confident in Walker’s ability to play first, despite his lack of major league experience at the position.

“I think he’s good enough to play anywhere,” Collins said before Tuesday’s game. “He’s played third; I think he can play first.”

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Walker said he has fielded ground balls at first since spring training, but has increased his practice time at first base in recent weeks, knowing the likelihood he may be asked to play the position.

“I’ve been getting comfortable with the distances around first base and kind of different scenarios and so on and so forth,” Walker said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s not completely out of the realm, being on the right side of the infield is obviously very similar to playing second base. You just have to obviously get used to the distances to the second baseman and from the back.”

THE BRUCE IS LOOSE

Jay Bruce returns to the lineup after sitting out this weekend with a stiff neck.

Jay Bruce returns to the lineup after sitting out this weekend with a stiff neck.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Jay Bruce was back in the lineup for the Mets Tuesday after missing the previous two games due to a sore neck. Bruce said the injury was a result of a number of long flights on the Mets’ past road trip, but feels better after taking a few days to let it heal.

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“I’m ready to go. I feel good,” Bruce said. “It was one of those deals where I really wanted to take precaution and get that nipped in the bud. Coupled with the off day there, it was a chance for me to really take some rest and get right.”

Bruce started in right field Tuesday after playing first base in Colorado and in the Mets’ series opener against the Dodgers. Bruce said the back-and-forth between outfield and first has been difficult, but recognized it can also help him become more versatile as a player.

“It’s challenging in a lot of ways, but at the same time it’s baseball and I still enjoy coming to the field every day and working on it,” Bruce said. “It’s something that I continue to work on. I definitely don’t just write it off as something that I couldn’t do in the future. It all depends on the situation and the circumstances. But I think if I prove that I could do it, it could help.”

REHAB UPDATES

Collins said it’s still “too soon” to know when infielder T.J. Rivera could potentially rejoin the team. Rivera is on the disabled list with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. He has yet to begin baseball activities, Collins said. … Juan Lagares (thumb) was scheduled start at center field and bat third for Double-A Binghamton Tuesday. Lagares is 5-for-20 in six rehab games with the Mets’ Double-A affiliate.

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neil walker
new york mets
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