Friday, February 28, 2014
Davis, Duda make positive first impressions
By Adam Rubin
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Officially, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are competing for the first-base job.
And both had positive starts to Grapefruit League play, as the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Friday at Tradition Field.
Starting at first base, Davis struck out looking on a changeup in his first at-bat, but recovered to launch a two-run homer in his third and final at-bat of the day, on a changeup from right-hander Christian Garcia.
Duda, the designated hitter, was robbed of a base hit in his first at-bat courtesy of a diving catch from Eury Perez in left-center. He then somehow muscled a ground-rule double over the right-field wall in his second at-bat despite right-hander A.J. Cole sawing his bat in half. Duda finished 1-for-3.
“They came ready to play,” Terry Collins said. “They came ready to make the club. It certainly was a good day for them both. I really think they’re bound and determined to make every game count.”
If Davis is not traded -- and he still may be -- there is a fair likelihood both will make the Opening Day roster. (There are no active trade discussions involving Davis, according to a team insider.)
Davis likely would be the regular at first base in that scenario, platooning with righty-hitting Josh Satin. Duda would be more potent as a lefty bat for the bench than any other candidate the Mets possess. The Mets need a designated hitter in Anaheim the second week of the season anyway in interleague play.
Also, Duda could dabble in the outfield to get limited at-bats. He has been doing some drills in the outfield this spring training while concentrating on first base.
Collins said he will use Duda eventually in a Grapefruit League game in the outfield, but after there are reassignments to minor league camp such as Brandon Nimmo and Cory Vaughn and more playing time is available.
“There’s so many guys I need to see,” Collins said. “…I’ll give him plenty of notice when we’re going to put him out there. Right now they’re going to alternate DHing and playing first and I’ll just try to get them at-bats as best I can.”
Last spring training, Davis hit .327 with one homer, five RBIs and a .431 on-base percentage in 55 at-bats, but he flopped once the season started. So no one was going gaga over Friday’s home run. Still, it’s better than struggling.
“Obviously, I’ve put up decent numbers in spring training before,” Davis said. “Last year I hit in the high .300s, but I didn’t drive the ball. I think I had only one home run all of spring training. If I can drive the ball and just keep making solid contact, that’s the biggest thing.
“I felt decently comfortable in there. Obviously, they weren’t throwing any curveballs or anything yet. But it felt good to hit one on the barrel. I can tell in BP I’m hitting the ball a little better than last year. It’s all about making contact and hitting the ball on the barrel more often than I have. That’s going to take time and games.”
Collins suggested Davis’ swing looks better.
“He got so fly-ball crazy that he created such a huge uppercut,” Collins said about 2013, when Davis found himself demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. “He created holes. Those holes aren’t there right now -- at least they haven’t been in batting practice. His bat path is much-improved.”
As for the official first-base competition, Duda said: “I’m always rooting for Ike. He had a great day today. I was happy for him.”
Said Davis: “It’s just getting ready for the season. It doesn’t matter where I’m going to be, I have to get ready for the season. I think I know what I have to do to play well at this point. You’ve got to drive the ball. You’ve got to make contact. Get runners in. Take your walks. And you have to play good defense. That’s the only way to stay here.”