Duda not left out vs. southpaw

WASHINGTON -- Terry Collins had suggested he wanted to begin getting Lucas Duda some starts against left-handed pitchers. Yet Eric Campbell then recently started over Duda against Cole Hamels and Madison Bumgarner, because Collins decided those southpaws were bad matchups for Duda.

Duda finally gets a shot against a left-handed pitcher Tuesday, versus Gio Gonzalez in the series opener against the Washington Nationals.

Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda

#21 1B
New York Mets

2014 STATS

  • GM105
  • HR20

  • RBI61

  • R49

  • OBP.358

  • AVG.261

“Our lefties have hit Gio in the past,” Collins said. “I just thought this is going to be a good test for Lucas to see how he approaches them. I know Gio’s tough. He’s a great pitcher. But we’ve been talking about giving him that opportunity and this was a good matchup for him.”

Lefties are hitting .233 against Gonzalez this season. Righties are hitting .237.

Gonzalez becomes the 24th southpaw to start against the Mets this season. It will be Duda’s seventh start against a lefty. He also has faced Franklin Morales, Vidal Nuno, Alex Wood, Mike Minor, Brad Hand and Roenis Elias.

The Mets next see a southpaw Saturday in Philly. And Collins already has resolved that Duda will not get a crack at Hamels. Duda is 1-for-13 with five walks in his career against Hamels.

“Lucas has faced him enough to know that it’s not a guy he hits,” Collins said.

Hitting coach Lamar Johnson has been working with Duda on attacking balls up in the strike zone -- thigh high or above, at least -- while laying off lower pitches. The staff has concluded Duda’s best contact occurs on the upper-strike-zone pitches.

Duda’s numbers against southpaws have declined each of the last four seasons in the majors, from .274 in 2011, to .238 in 2012, to .183 in 2013 and .161 this year.

Collins suggested the decline is related to Duda attempting to pull the ball more as he has become a more integral part of the lineup who is charged with driving in runs.

“He’s a little more of a pull hitter than when he first got here,” the manager said.

Collins added that Duda has taken playing -- or not playing -- against southpaws in stride.

“He doesn’t say anything when he’s in the lineup,” Collins said. “He doesn’t say anything when he’s out of the lineup.”

Day off: With the Mets in the midst of playing 20 straight days, Curtis Granderson has been given a day off Tuesday. Collins said he soon will give David Wright a day off, too.

Granderson had started 11 straight games since missing a pair of games in Seattle while ill.

Back to work: Jenrry Mejia, who revealed he experienced lower-back tightness during Monday’s ninth-inning loss against San Francisco, appears OK.

“He hit the side of the landing hole and just said he tweaked his back a little bit,” Collins said. “He’s fine.”

Welcome back: The decision about whether Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be in the lineup is “going to be day to day right now,” Collins said.

Collins added: “For sure, we’re going to try to get him some more playing time.”

Collins said he had no role in Nieuwenhuis being selected for a promotion over Matt den Dekker with Bobby Abreu having been designated for assignment.

“Sandy said, ‘Kirk’s coming,’” Collins said.

Last stand? The Mets trail the first-place Nats by eight games, so anything less than a sweep of this three-game series will be unacceptable, right?

“You’d like to, but you better worry about winning two out of three, because they’re pretty good,” Collins said. “We’ve got them six times in the next 10 days. So we’ve got to make the most of it if we expect to get back in this race.”