Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Mets 2, Nats 0: Gee whiz, Duda delivers
By Adam Rubin
Dillon Gee tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and the Mets blanked the Washington Nationals, 2-0, on Tuesday night to snap a nine-game winless streak in Grapefruit League play.
Lucas Duda delivered an opposite-field solo homer for the lone run surrendered by Stephen Strasburg in five innings, during which the Nats’ ace limited the Mets to two hits and a walk.
Jason Bay walked with two out in the sixth against right-hander Ryan Mattheus, stole second and scored on a single by Ike Davis to cap the scoring.
The Mets used their full lineup with the exception of Justin Turner subbing for David Wright, who is still working back from an abdominal muscle tear.
• Ruben Tejada returned to exhibition play for the first time in nine days after pronouncing his groin strain healed. Tejada doubled down the third-base line for the other hit against Strasburg and also turned a pair of double plays in the middle infield with Daniel Murphy -- one 4-6-3, and one 6-4-3. Tejada departed after five innings for Ronny Cedeno.
Tejada’s recovery from the groin injury was tested when he ranged to his right, fielded a deep grounder and made a jump-stop throw that narrowly failed to retire Ian Desmond at first base to open the fourth inning.
“That’s a really good test,” Tejada said.
Tejada and Murphy had logged only six innings in the Grapefruit League together before Tuesday’s game, but infield coach Tim Teufel said the tandem actually had worked together a lot on back fields, even while Tejada was being held out of games.
“They’ve had a lot of reps,” Teufel said. “They’ve gotten to know where they like the ball, where they want it thrown to.”
Said Murphy: “I’ve said this from the beginning: He’s going to figure me out pretty quickly. It’s nice to get him back. I don’t think it’s really slowed our progress too much. What would really slow our progress is if he tried to play through it and ended up missing a month.”
Teufel complimented Tejada’s improvement going to his right and backhanding the ball. Earlier in his brief major league career, Tejada had the bad habit of trying to circle around balls to his right. Tejada also has shown an aptitude to play batters correctly based on things such as which pitch is about to be thrown and the batter’s swing.
“His backhand has come a long way,” Teufel said. “That’s part of his development. That’s been his development. I think he’s a heady player. I think he’s going to hold runners real well. I think he’s going to play the hole real well. I think he just has a great feel for the game. He’s giving [the third basemen] off-speed pitches verbally -- just a lot of little things in the game that need to be done to upgrade what’s been going on in the infield.”
Said Davis about Tejada: “He’s got a cannon. His arm’s really good.”
Not Jose Reyes’ arm, though, right?
“Jose’s ball -- how short it was -- was the thing,” Davis replied, explaining how Reyes’ release was quicker because of a quick, snapping arm motion. “It was so quick and so hard. Ruben has a different throwing motion, but throws the heck out of it. I mean, if you watch, it hurts sometimes.”
• Gee tossed 72 pitches, including double-digit curveballs that had quality movement but mostly were out of the strike zone. He limited the Nats to three hits and a walk while striking out four in 5 2/3 innings.
“It gives you a little bit of confidence going into the year that your pitches are on and you feel all right out there,” said Gee, who shaved his Grapefruit League ERA to 3.07. “I’d have to say it probably would be pretty tough going into your first start of the year if you were struggling all spring. So it’s nice to have a couple of outings where I feel like I’m clicking a little bit.”
As for delivering a sacrifice bunt while facing Strasburg in the third inning, Gee said: “I mean, I couldn’t even see the ball really. It was like swinging at a golf ball.
“Luck, I guess,” he continued about the successful bunt. “I actually thought he was going to throw me a curveball and try to strike me out. Luckily I was able to get it down and get the job done.”
• Duda, who was slowed earlier by a modest back issue, now has 25 Grapefruit League plate appearances. Terry Collins said it will be a priority the remainder of camp to get him, and other starters, at-bats. Collins ideally wants each of his starters to make 10 more starts in the Mets’ final 15 exhibition games.
“We’ve got to start getting at-bats for a lot of these guys -- Lucas being one of them,” Collins said. “As I sit here, I keep track of him every day, and Lucas, he’s got 22 at-bats (actually 18, discounting for sac flies, walks and hit by pitches). He’s got to catch up. We’ve got to start getting guys to 40 and 45 and 50 at-bats here this week. It was good to see him swing the bat like he did, certainly.”