Who’s That Guy on the Bench?

With Ruben Gotay getting so much playing time lately, Willie Randolph needs someone to run back and forth from the water cooler keeping his bottle filled. Mets outfielder Chip AmbresYou may have noticed the face to the right when the TV cameras pan on the Mets’ dugout, and wondered “who the heck is that guy?”. His name is Chip Ambres, and he’s up from AAA New Orleans to keep the bench warm, pass out Geritol tablets, and fill out AARP forms for the Mets veterans.

If you missed it, MetsToday wrote a full profile of Chip Ambres back in February, just as spring training began. Go ahead and follow that link to get a decent history of Ambres before he joined the Mets organization.

In a nutshell, Ambres was, for a brief period, the starting centerfielder for the Kansas City Royals — which, I understand, isn’t saying much. Still, he did start in CF in MLB, so you have to give him a little credit for that. He played with KC in 2005, and therefore crossed paths with Ruben Gotay, so they’re familiar with each other — not that that means anything. After playing about 50 games with the Royals, he lost in the competition for the centerfield job the following spring (to Aaron Guiel), and spent an injury-plagued year in AAA. At the end of last season, Ambres became a free-agent, and the Mets signed him and extended him a non-roster invite to spring training.

He was barely noticed in March, and joined the Zephyrs as their starting leftfielder. Through 85 games, he hit .275 with 16 homeruns and a .370 OBP. After a seven-day stretch of batting .586 with 3 homers and winning PCL hitter of the week honors in mid-June, Ricky Ledee was promoted to the Mets to fill in for an injured Endy Chavez.

Finally, Ambres has returned to the big leagues, though it’s questionable whether he’ll actually get on the field. He’s a stocky (6’1″, 230 lbs.) righthanded hitter who used to have really good wheels, but leg injuries have slowed him a bit. Still, he remains a strong defender in all three OF positions with some pop in his bat. Why he isn’t being brought in to spell Shawn Green in late innings is beyond comprehension, but perhaps we’ll see him used as a pinch-runner for Sandy Alomar some time.

Keep your eyes peeled for number 36 — if you’re not paying close attention, he may go in and out of the game so quickly you’ll miss him.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.