Friday, September 13, 2013
Lucas Duda auditioning for 2014
By Matt Ehalt
Lucas Duda, fighting for a roster spot in 2014, hit a three-run blast to lift the Mets over the Marlins.
NEW YORK -- The Mets are giving Lucas Duda every opportunity to wow them.
With starting first baseman Ike Davis done for the season because of a right oblique strain, Duda is getting his chance to be the starting first baseman down the stretch. The Mets are giving him a platform to showcase his talents, and, more important, audition for a big role with the team for the 2014 season.
"Here's his shot to say, 'Hey, look, I'm going to be a legitimate candidate, you're going to have to think about me at that spot,' " Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's why we're hoping as we finish the season out that Lucas does what we know he can do."
Hits like the one Duda had Friday night help. Duda belted the go-ahead three-run homer in the Mets' 4-3 win over the Marlins at Citi Field. He finished 1-for-4.
"Just glad we won," Duda said. "That's the main thing."
The Mets face a predicament with Duda. They've discovered their experiment with him in the outfield did not work. Duda does not have the range the team wants from its outfielders, and the outfield defense was much improved while he was sidelined because of an intercostal strain.
That leaves Duda to play his preferred position of first base, where the team already has a starter in the embattled Davis. Duda said after the game he feels "good" and "comfortable" while playing first base, which he has done exclusively since returning from the minors on Aug. 25.
With roster spots tight for 2014, Duda could be in a battle with Davis to be the starting first baseman, and the loser could be in a tough spot since they are both left-handed hitters. The Mets could use Josh Satin to form a platoon at first base, as they have this season, meaning they probably wouldn't need another left-handed bat to back up first base.
"This is his chance to play every day at first base. That's where he likes to play," Collins said of Duda. "We're hoping he relaxes at the plate. He doesn't have to worry about playing defense because he knows he can play first."
Friday night, Duda capitalized on a hanging curveball and deposited it beyond the right-field wall to put the Mets ahead for good in the sixth inning. Collins said he hoped the homer gets Duda going over the final 16 games, and called it a "big swing for us." The Mets had lost four straight games and were just 2-9 in September entering Friday.
Duda, who is hitting .245 in 16 games since returning, isn't concerning himself with what these games could mean for his future with the organization.
"I'm just more concerned with winning and playing well," Duda said. "Whatever they do is up to them. I'm just going to play hard, have fun, and hopefully continue to win."
NIESE WINS:Jon Niese picked up the win after yielding three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He evened his record at 7-7. Niese relied on his curveball to stymie the Marlins' lineup.
"It was pretty windy out there so I felt the curveball had a little more bite to it," Niese said.