Kirk Nieuwenhuis put his name in the Mets record books with his three-homer barrage against the Arizona Diamondbacks July 12, becoming the first Met to accomplish the feat at home. But he also logged another first on July 6, in his first game back with the team after being sold to the Angels, claimed back on waivers and outrighted to the minor leagues.
When he took the field that day at AT&T Park in San Francisco, he became the first Met position player to begin the season with the club, move on to another club, and then return and play again later that season, in the majors, with the Mets. Pitcher Greg McMichael accomplished the feat in 1998.
To date, 43 players make up the Mets "Two-Timers Club"—players with at least two separate tours of duty in the bigs with the Mets after appearing in between with another ballclub. The list ranges from familiar names like Tom Seaver, Lee Mazzilli, and Rusty Staub to more obscure ones like Rick Trlicek, Mike Birkbeck, and Jeff Tam.
Nieuwenhuis was batting .079 after striking out as a pinch hitter on May 18 and was promptly designated for assignment. He was sent to the Angels for cash on May 27 before returning on a waiver claim on June 13. After a few weeks at Las Vegas as a member of the 51s, he returned to the Mets and was inserted in left field against Chris Heston on July 6.
"It’s been a wild ride for sure," he said after his three-homer outburst got the Mets a 5-3 win and three-game sweep. "It’s been a roller coaster for the last month for sure."
In order to gain membership in the Two-Timers Club, a player must play for the Mets and then play for another team before making it back to the big club with the Mets—assignment to the minors doesn’t cut it. So players like outfielder Matt Watson, who played for the Mets briefly in 2003 and toiled for them in the minors in 2009, and current ESPN broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski, a Met in 2001 who pitched in 43 games in their system in 2012, don’t qualify. Nor do more recognizable names like Edgardo Alfonzo (Norfolk Tides, 2006 after playing for the Giants) or 1969 Miracle Met Gary Gentry (Double-A Jackson Mets, 1975, after a stint with the Braves).
Logan Verrett, who logged an 0.73 ERA earlier this year before being returned to Las Vegas, doesn’t qualify either because he had never appeared in the big leagues for the Mets before he pitched for the Texas Rangers, who got him on waivers from the Baltimore Orioles after the O's had claimed him from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft.
The Two-Timers Club dates all the way back to the earliest days of the franchise, when pitcher Frank Lary became the first member. When he was acquired from the Milwaukee Braves on March 20, 1965, he made Mets history by becoming the first player to be brought in after having been shipped out.
Lary had earned the nickname "The Yankee Killer" by going 28-13 versus the Bombers for his career, and Manager Casey Stengel, on the losing end for many of those games, was happy to have him when the Mets purchased his contract on May 30, 1964 from the Detroit Tigers. He went 2-3 with a 4.55 ERA for the Mets, and was traded to the Braves that August for pitcher Dennis Ribant and cash. He then went 1-3 with a 2.98 ERA during his second tour in 1965 before moving on again, this time for good, to the White Sox that July.
But not everyone was better, or even passable, the second time around.
Everyone remembers Bobby Bonilla, who was a Met from 1992-1995 and then returned in 1999, only to bat .160.
Kevin McReynolds, another charming personality, was a solid performer on the Mets from 1987-91, providing power, solid defense in left field, and even stolen base acumen. But his return in 1994, when he hit .256 with 4 homers in 51 games, was his last season in the big leagues.
Gary Matthews Jr., who appeared in only two games for the Mets at the start of the 2002 season, was brought back by the club for 2010. They should have stuck with their original decision. He batted .190 in 36 games that year and promptly exited the show.
Some might question Terry Leach’s club membership, but his Two-Timer status is legit. The Selma, Alabama side-armer who went 11-1 as a Met in 1987 was traded to the Cubs in September 1983 and returned on May 25, 1984 in a minor league deal before resurfacing in Flushing. Since his brief time away was in the minors, his status in the club might not be apparent to some.
Of course, no one made a more ballyhooed return to the Mets than Seaver, who walked out of the right field bullpen at Shea Stadium to start against the Phillies on Opening Day 1983. Sadly, the club let him be scooped away by the White Sox following the season, and he was actually in the opposing dugout, as a member of the Red Sox, at Shea during the 1986 World Series.
Out of all of them, only one Met has had as many as three separate tours with the Mets—Pedro Feliciano, who played in Flushing from 2002-04 and spent a year in Japan in 2005 before returning in 2006 and becoming a mainstay in the Mets bullpen. He then signed with the Yankees following the 2010 season but never threw a pitch for them, and then returned for 25 games in 2013.
Maybe Omar Quintanilla—the only Met with a surname beginning with the letter Q—who was in the Rockies' minor leagues before being released by them in June, will join Feliciano as a second "Three-Timer." Mike Jacobs, in the Diamondbacks system, and Anderson Hernandez, active in Japan, are the only other club members still playing organized ball.
Bob L. Miller (1962, 1973-74) and Kelly Stinnett (1994-95, 2006) are tied for the longest gap between tours at 11 years.
Nieuwenhuis seems likely to stick around this time after his recent power performance, which included homers to left field, left-center, and off the right-field foul pole, in that order.
"It was pretty cool—it was a lot of fun today," he said.