Mets 7, Tigers 7: Duda a blast in return

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
5:46
PM ET
Lucas Duda belted a monstrous grand slam off right-hander Jacob Turner in the right fielder’s return to the lineup and the Mets played to a 7-7, 10-inning draw with the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland on Monday afternoon.

Duda had been out of Grapefruit League action since Wednesday because of back stiffness, although he had continued to hit in a cage even during the absence.

“It wasn’t a big issue to start with,” Duda said. “A couple of days and I was good. … I wouldn’t even call it an injury. It was very minor.”

“If it still hurts him, I hate to see how hard he’s going to hit them when he feels better,” Terry Collins quipped.

Mike Nickeas was told he would need to make his swing more compact and show he can hit at least at a minimally acceptable level in order to take the backup catcher spot and hold off Rob Johnson. So far, so good.

Nickeas produced a pair of doubles in three at-bats Monday and is hitting .364 (4-for-11) in the Grapefruit League.

Collins said Nickeas is showing him something.

“He really is,” the manager said. “You ask a player when he comes into camp, ‘Hey, here’s what we’ve got to see,’ and he’s done nothing but swing the bat very, very well.”

Said Nickeas: “The message has been clearly sent to me, which has nice. He said, ‘Hey, get shorter, get on top of the ball, be a tough out.’ That’s what I continue to try to do. It feels good. It’s kind of surprising -- when you stay short, you start using those ‘whippy’ muscles in your swing instead of the big muscles that were really slowing me down in the first place. I feel like there’s a little bit of whip in there that wasn’t there before. I think that’s just a result of staying short.”

Wilmer Flores, who is transitioning from shortstop to third base this season, dropped a pop-up and had a throwing error at the hot corner. The pair of eighth-inning errors contributed to an unearned run charged to Jeremy Hefner, which evened the score at 7.

Jon Niese allowed three runs on five hits in three innings while striking out four and walking none in his latest Grapefruit League start. A three-run third included an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder also started for Detroit.

“Boy, they’ve got some good guys on their team,” Niese said. “They have a great lineup. There’s a certain way you pitch those guys. And if you go off that plan, they’re really going to make you pay for it, and they did.”

Still, Niese said he did have a small alibi. He was working on his two-seam fastball and changeup during a three-run third by the Tigers. Niese called those “show pitches” and not integral to his arsenal.

• Former Cubs reliever Jeff Stevens worked a 1-2-3 10th inning after being borrowed from minor league camp. Stevens, a 28-year-old right-hander, made 68 relief appearances over three years for Chicago.

• Collins said Ike Davis is ready to play multiple days in a row, and the 2011 ankle injury is behind him. “I ask him all the time about it,” Collins said. “It’s absolutely a non-issue.” Davis briefly appeared in back-to-back games to open the Grapefruit League season, but had settled into an every-other-day pattern.

• On David Wright’s cortisone shot, Collins said: “David was close. I think this was just an added precaution to pretty much speed him along the process of him getting better. I know when David comes back tomorrow he’ll have a timeframe in mind -- mostly likely midweek, late week before he can start resuming some on-the-field activities. Then we’ve got to see where he is by the weekend.”
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.289 9 57 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187