Thee speedy outfielder Kerry Robinson has never had a chance to start extensively since becoming a major leaguer in 1998. Robinson, a free-agent acquisition by the Mets, is looking at another long-shot situation this season. Cliff Floyd, Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron are expected to be the starters when healthy.
Yet Robinson, 31, does not lack confidence. As a player who relies far more on swiftness than power, he likens himself to Juan Pierre, a center fielder for the Florida Marlins. In his five-year career, Pierre has hit .312 with 210 stolen bases and 424 runs scored, helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series.
The speed and effectiveness of Pierre, hitting leadoff, and the Marlins’ No. 2 hitter, Luis Castillo, has led other teams, including the Mets, to seek speed at the top of the lineup. The Mets are doing that with JosÃ© Reyes, Kazuo Matsui and Beltran.
“I think of myself as Juan Pierre if he never got a chance to start,” Robinson said Sunday, before rain cut the Mets’ practice short. “If I could play every day, I think over the course of a season I could really do some damage.”
Robinson has played in 445 major league games, yet has never started more than 31 in a season. He played in 80 games for San Diego last season, but had just 92 at-bats. He did hit .293, stealing 11 bases and scoring 20 runs.
Omar Minaya, the Mets’ general manager, persuaded Robinson to sign in December. Robinson liked hearing Minaya talk about the Mets’ building for a brighter future, but that was just before Beltran signed a $119 million contract, locking down the last starting outfield job.
Robinson shrugged when asked about that Sunday. He said he had some idea it might happen. He seems not to mind competing to be the Mets’ fifth and final outfielder. Eric Valent, who hit .267 with 13 home runs in 130 games last season, appears to have the inside track to be the fourth outfielder. Robinson, a left-handed batter, will compete for the fifth spot with Gerald Williams and Ron Calloway, other players with major league pedigrees.