New York Mets: Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda sits against a lefty, again

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
NEW YORK -- It's no longer automatic that Lucas Duda gets left out of the Mets lineup when the opposing starter is left-handed. But Duda didn't play last Tuesday against Cole Hamels, and he isn't starting Sunday against Madison Bumgarner.

Two different circumstances, Mets manager Terry Collins explained Sunday morning.

With Hamels, it was simply the matchup. Duda is 1 for 13 in his career against the Phillies lefty, with seven strikeouts.

And with Bumgarner?

"Some of these guys are just different," Collins said. "This guy throws across his body, and he's hard to pick up. If you're going to give a left-hander a day off, this is going to be the guy."

So, in addition to sitting Duda, Collins gave Daniel Murphy his first day off since the All-Star break. Curtis Granderson is the only left-handed hitter in the Mets lineup against Bumgarner.

Collins said he considered playing Duda instead of Granderson, but that would have required Eric Campbell to play right field, where Campbell is less comfortable than at first base.

Duda had started four of the past six games against lefties before Sunday. He started only two of the first 16 games in which the Mets faced a left-hander this season.

Colon goes for 200: Bartolo Colon goes for his 200th career win Sunday. Colon would be just the third active pitcher with 200 (Tim Hudson and CC Sabathia are the others). He also would be just the third Dominican-born pitcher to win 200 (joining Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez), and just the third pitcher to win his 200th game while wearing a Mets uniform.

Tom Seaver? No. Dwight Gooden? No. The only two pitchers who got their 200th win while pitching for the Mets, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, were Orel Hershiser (1999) and Martinez (2006).

DeGrom takes the fifth: Jacob deGrom has a 1.04 ERA in his past five starts, all wins. Elias reports that deGrom is the first rookie since Dontrelle Willis in 2003 to have a five-game winning streak with such a low ERA.

"A real live arm," said Giants pitcher Jake Peavy, who lost to deGrom Saturday. "He has some deception with his length, and he had a good breaking ball. I think he has a good chance to be really good."

Elias also reported that Peavy was the first pitcher since Elmer Dessens in 2002 to take a loss in a game in which he carried a perfect game one out into the seventh inning.

Duda among hardest-hitting hitters

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
Lucas Duda is finally starting to reap the rewards of hitting the ball hard.

Duda homered again on Thursday, his third home run in his last four games and his fourth home run in his last seven.

He’s hitting .368 in his last 11 games with the four home runs and eight RBIs.

You may have heard a reference on last night’s Mets telecast to how Duda ranks among the sport’s leaders in hard-hit ball rate.

ESPN uses a video-review service, one used by major league teams and media, which rates every batted ball as being hit either hard, medium or soft. They have visually-available criteria (was contact made on the sweet spot of the bat?) by which they determine the level they choose. Major-league teams have a tool known as Hit F/X and may use “exit velocity” as their primary criteria. That tool is not available publicly.

We’ve been sharing these rankings on Twitter throughout the season.

Duda has produced a hard-hit ball in 23 percent of his opportunities (at-bats plus sacrifice flies) this season. That ranks eighth among the 210 players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, fifth-best in the National League. Two Pirates, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, rank in the top three, sandwiched around Braves slugger Evan Gattis.

Duda’s 2014 rate matches that of Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, arguably the game’s top slugger, and well exceeds that of former teammate Ike Davis (14 percent).

The next-best Met among the regulars is Curtis Granderson at 18 percent (Bobby Abreu is at 20 percent in fewer than 200 plate appearances). By season’s end, the major-league average should be near 17 percent (it’s about 16 percent now).

The common bond among most of the top performers in this stat is a high batting average and good power numbers. Hard-hit balls turn out to be base hits about 70 percent of the time.

Duda’s success rate in 2014 is a bit below that. He’s 33 for 53 when hitting the ball hard (.622 batting average). Last season, Duda was a hair above average at 41 for 57 (.719).

Citi Field may have something to do with Duda’s issues this season. Duda is 13 for 23 (.565) when hitting a ball hard at home this season. The outs include two deep flies to right, two to the “death valley” that is right center field and three flies to left.

The Mets actually have the lowest batting average in baseball on hard-hit balls this season -- .635 (15 points behind the next-worst, the Cleveland Indians).

The hard-hit balls have been falling in the right places for Duda of late. His last seven have gone for base hits, the last two for home runs.

Duda was able to take advantage of a short left field wall in Pittsburgh with his opposite-field homer on Thursday. It was the first homer he’s hit along the left field line in his career. He’ll try to do so again Friday.

Murph explains sixth-inning miscues

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
ST. LOUIS -- What happened in the sixth inning, when Daniel Murphy failed to catch Daniel Descalso's soft line drive?

"I didn't catch it," Murphy succinctly said.

That E-4 ultimately resulted in two unearned runs in what became a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

Both Terry Collins and Murphy absolved first baseman Lucas Duda of any wrongdoing on the play, although it still seemed as though Murphy could have recorded the out at first had Duda gone to the bag earlier. He didn't, presuming Murphy would catch the soft liner.

"That was not Lucas' fault," Murphy insisted. "Once I dropped it the play was over."

After one unearned run subsequently scored in the sixth on Kolten Wong's RBI single, the Cardinals still had runners on the corners. And the Mets had another chance to escape the inning.

But on Wong's steal attempt of second, Murphy never applied the tag after receiving the throw from Anthony Recker. He saw Descalso breaking from third for the plate.

Replays suggested Murphy could have tagged out Wong and ended the inning. Descalso ultimately retreated to third base. He scored on Peter Bourjos' ensuing infield single.

Murphy agreed Wong would have been out at second.

So why did he focus on Descalso instead?

"I saw him break," Murphy said. "It was a very poor decision by me."

Jonathon Niese saw the Cardinals take a 5-1 lead against him as a result of the blunders.

"You've just got to focus up and execute pitches. I wasn't able to," Niese said. "I left a lot of pitches over the plate and gave up a bunch of hits."

Rapid Reaction: Mets 6, Padres 2

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
NEW YORK -- Who says the Mets don’t stage Old-Timers’ Days?

A pair of 40-somethings led the way for the Amazin’s on Friday night at Citi Field.

After a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay at the start, Bobby Abreu went 4-for-4 and Bartolo Colon retired 18 straight batters at one point as the Mets beat the San Diego Padres, 6-2, at Citi Field.

In a faceoff of spiraling teams and anemic offenses, San Diego opened the scoring on a two-run homer by former Mets farmhand Rene Rivera in the second inning. Afterward, the 41-year-old Colon did not allow another baserunner until Alexi Amarista’s leadoff double in the eighth.

Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Abreu -- who became the ninth Mets player to start in the cleanup slot this season -- scored twice and produced two RBIs in addition to producing four hits. It marked his first four-hit game since May 30, 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City.

The Mets (30-37) won for only the second time in their past 10 games. San Diego (28-39) has lost nine of 11.

Colon’s final line: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. He threw 118 pitches, his second-highest total since 2004.

He departed with a 6-2 lead, one out and Amarista on second. A strikeout and two walks by Josh Edgin later, Vic Black entered and retired Carlos Quentin on a tapper to third base to strand the bases loaded and close the book on Colon.

Abreu had a leadoff double in the second and scored on Taylor Teagarden’s two-out single to pull the Mets within 2-1. Two innings later, Abreu again singled and scored, this time on Lucas Duda’s double to left-center. Matt den Dekker followed with a tiebreaking ground-rule double that plated Duda and gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.

Abreu produced an RBI single in the fifth as the Mets expanded their lead to two runs against Andrew Cashner. He capped the Mets’ scoring with an RBI single in the seventh against left-hander Troy Patton.

Duda had a hard lineout to left field in his first at-bat and followed with two doubles while snapping an 0-for-15 drought.

What’s next: Zack Wheeler (2-6, 4.19 ERA) opposes right-hander Jesse Hahn at 4:10 p.m. Saturday. Hahn, who is being promoted from Double-A San Antonio for the start, pitched at Fitch High School in Groton, Conn., alongside teammate Matt Harvey. Harvey’s father, Ed, was their head coach.

Six things we learned from Sunday's games

May, 25, 2014
May 25
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks played six hours and 21 minutes of baseball on Sunday at Citi Field, and it ended in a draw.

The Diamondbacks won the first game 2-1. The Mets won the second game 4-2. Both teams remain in last place in their respective divisions.

Still, we learned a few things about the Mets on this long day in Queens. Here are six items, after six hours and change of action on the field:

Montero belongs here: Rafael Montero is still looking for his first major league win, but he deserves the opportunity to keep trying after striking out 10 in Game 1.

He became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to strike out 10 or more in one of his first three starts -- Matt Harvey was the last to do so, and we all know how good Harvey turned out to be.

"This was my best, and there is better to come," Montero said.

When Dillon Gee returns from the disabled list (and he may be out longer than expected now), the Mets will have to make a decision. Neither Montero (0-2, 4.96 ERA) nor Jacob deGrom (0-2, 2.77) have gotten a win yet, but the team's anemic offense has a lot to do with that. Why not keep 'em both in the rotation, and send Bartolo Colon (3-5, 5.34) to the bullpen? He's not a part of the long-term future, anyway. Just a thought.

Dice-K can still start: The Mets have converted Daisuke Matsuzaka into a reliever this season but turned to him in desperation on Sunday, and he delivered.

Needing a spot starter because of the doubleheader, the Mets gave the ball to Matsuzaka in Game 2 and he gave them six innings, allowing just two runs on three hits -- striking out six, walking just one, and throwing 98 pitches despite not being stretched out in preparation.

"It tells you the kind of heart he’s got," manager Terry Collins said. "He knows we needed help, he knows our bullpen’s a little thin after what we’ve gone through this week, and he gave us a tremendous outing."

The 33-year-old Matsuzaka has now done it all for the Mets this season -- started, set up and closed. And it's not even June.

Collins shot down the notion of Matsuzaka being added to the rotation after the game, but he's been effective out of the bullpen as well -- now 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA on the season. Matsuzaka estimated he needs three days of rest before he'll be able to pitch again.

"I wanted to go and pitch as deep into the game as I could," he said. "That was the least I could have done, and I’m glad I was able to help out the team."

Mejia can pitch twice in one day: The Mets used Jenrry Mejia for an inning in each game of the doubleheader. He took the loss in the first game, but the winning run was unearned, scoring on an error by Daniel Murphy. And Mejia bounced back to record his third save of the season in the nightcap.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen called down to the bullpen early in the second game, and Mejia said he felt up to pitching again.

"I think it says a lot -- that he's healthier, he's starting to realize that he can bounce back, that he can do more than he first thought," Collins said.

Collins sounded hesitant about using Mejia in Monday's day game against the Pirates, but Mejia said he thinks he will be up for it, and seems to be embracing the closer role.

"Right now I feel pretty good," Mejia said. "Let's see how I feel tomorrow. That's my first time, pitching twice. It's unbelievable."

Wright's really on: The Mets are one of the poorest offensive teams in baseball, but it's certainly not David Wright's fault.

Wright went 2-for-3 and reached base four times in the first game of the doubleheader, and went 1-for-4 in the finale, extending his hitting streak to nine games.

He is batting .444 (16-for-36) during the streak, and has 36 hits in May, second-most in the National League.

Wright also made an outstanding play in the field in the second game. With the Mets leading 3-2 in the top of the seventh, the Diamondbacks had the tying run on second base with one out. Ender Inciarte hit a low foul pop to the left of the third-base line, and Wright made a beautiful sliding grab near the Diamondbacks' dugout. Well done.

Duda, Young really aren't: The Mets are going nowhere if they keep getting this kind of production from the middle of their lineup.

A day after going 0-for-4 and stranding seven runners on base, Lucas Duda went 0-for-5 and stranded eight more Sunday -- starting Game 1, and pinch-hitting in Game 2 -- and is now batting .228 on the season.

Chris Young went 0-for-3 and stranded six runners in Game 1, did not play in Game 2, and is now batting .204 on the season.

"I think mechanically I'm right where I want to be," Duda said. "But I think pitch selection obviously -- chasing balls out of the zone, taking balls that are strikes, that's kind of vice versa of what you hope to do as a baseball player at the plate. That's how it goes -- you hit rough patches, and it is what it is, and I'll come out tomorrow and hopefully knock in a few runs."

Collins said Duda will start Monday but wouldn't commit to Young yet, mentioning the possibility of giving Bobby Abreu another chance. Abreu went 2-for-3 in Game 2 on Sunday, and also drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in Game 1.

The bases loaded is a bad thing: It is for the Mets, anyway. They are now 6-for-44 (.136) with the bases loaded this season, after going 0-for-2 on Sunday.

The Mets are hitless, with zero RBIs, in their last nine at-bats with the bases juiced.

You can't make this stuff up, folks. But tomorrow's a new day.

Duda in lineup, day after hospitalization

May, 10, 2014
May 10
NEW YORK -- On Friday, Lucas Duda was in the hospital.

On Saturday, he was back in the lineup for the New York Mets.

Duda had a case of food poisoning (apparently from an undercooked hamburger) bad enough that he needed intravenous fluids. He said he woke up feeling much better Saturday, and was able to convince manager Terry Collins he had enough energy to play.

"I just told him, 'I feel good, and I want to play,'" Duda said.

In the original lineup posted for Saturday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Collins had just-promoted Eric Campbell at first base. But after Duda took some swings in the cage and got an OK from the Mets' medical staff, Collins made the switch and put Campbell's major-league debut on hold.

"Injuries are caused by guys playing when they're dehydrated," Collins said. "But he told me he felt great."

Soup's on first -- eventually: The 27-year-old Campbell spent seven years in the Mets farm system waiting for a chance, so waiting another day or two to debut isn't a big letdown.

"It's a dream come true," said Campbell, a Connecticut native who was drafted in the eighth round in 2008. "There are a lot of emotions going through my head. This definitely makes it all worth it."

Campbell was hitting .355 at Triple-A Las Vegas, and proved his value to the Mets by playing second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field, in addition to first base. With left-hander Cole Hamels scheduled to start for the Phillies on Sunday, Campbell will likely make his debut in that game.

Campbell is the sixth player from the 2008 Mets draft to make the big leagues, but it's not an overly distinguished group. The other five are Ike Davis (first round), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (third), Josh Satin (sixth), Collin McHugh (18th) and Chris Schwinden (22nd).

Satin story: It was hardly a surprise that Satin was sent to the minor leagues to make room for Campbell. The right-handed first baseman had just three hits and 10 strikeouts in 28 at-bats this season, and looked particularly overmatched in five hitless at-bats Friday night.

"He starts getting regular at-bats, he's going to hit," Collins said.

Lucas Duda hospitalized, stomach ailment

May, 9, 2014
May 9
NEW YORK -- New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda had to be hospitalized Friday, because of a stomach ailment that caused him to be dehydrated.

"He's getting an IV, because he couldn't keep any fluids down," Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday afternoon.

Collins wasn't sure how long Duda would remain at the hospital, and left open the possibility that Duda could rejoin the Mets and even be available to pinch-hit in Friday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Josh Satin will start at first base in Duda's place.

Series review: Mets net one win

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
The New York Mets salvaged the series finale from the Atlanta Braves with their marathon win on Sunday.

Here are some of the statistical highlights from the weekend.

The Grandy Man Can … and Does
Curtis Granderson’s walk-off sacrifice fly marked his first walk-off RBI since the 2006 season.

Granderson is hitless in his past 16 at-bats and is hitting .127 this season. That’s the fifth-lowest batting average in the majors and explains why Eric Young Jr. was walked, even though David Wright (who had four hits in the game) was waiting to hit after Granderson.

It is the second-longest game the Mets have won by a walk-off sacrifice fly. They had a 15-inning win against the San Diego Padres in 1983, with the sacrifice fly coming from Brian Giles.

Daisuke’s stellar effort
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched three hitless innings with five strikeouts on Sunday, one of the better relief efforts by a Mets pitcher in some time.

The last Mets reliever to throw at least three hitless innings with five strikeouts was Pat Mahomes against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.

The new closer
Kyle Farnsworth becomes the third pitcher to be appointed Mets closer this season, following Bobby Parnell and Jose Valverde.

One thing to be wary of with Farnsworth: Even though he has a 1.08 ERA in nine appearances, he’s been hit hard.

Our video-tracking system has Farnsworth as having allowed seven hard-hit balls in 8⅓ innings already, or the same number as Jenrry Mejia in 7⅔ fewer innings.

As for the old closer, Valverde allowed a home run for the third straight game in the middle game of this series. That he was able to avoid allowing one in a fourth straight saved him from a historical distinction. Three Mets relievers have allowed a homer in four straight appearances -- Mark Bomback (1980), Randy Myers (1987) and Jonathan Hurst (1994).

Setting the pace
With the season one-ninth done (18 games), here are three paces that Mets players are on so far, with an observation on each:

1. Wright is on pace for 216 base hits (he has 24), which would be the most in his career, but only nine home runs, which would be the fewest in his career.

2. Lucas Duda is on pace for 27 home runs and 81 RBIs. Last season, the Mets got only 15 home runs and 59 RBIs from their first basemen.

3. Young is on pace for 90 steals (he has 10), which would break Jose Reyes’ single-season record by 12.

View from the other side: Harang’s awesome night
Aaron Harang became the second pitcher to throw at least seven no-hit innings against the Mets and not be credited with a no-hitter.

The other was Clay Kirby, who threw eight no-hit innings for the 1970 San Diego Padres but left trailing 1-0. The Mets would get two runs and three hits in the ninth inning to win the game, 3-0. The Padres have still never had a no-hitter.

Rapid Reaction: Braves 7, Mets 5

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
NEW YORK -- Freddie Freeman is so good against the New York Mets, it hardly matters whether he hits the ball 40 feet or 400.

Or whether he hits it off his own foot.

The biggest play in the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday did indeed deflect off Freeman's foot, or so it appeared on television replays. The ball ended up rolling down the third-base line, and when Mets starter Bartolo Colon threw it away down the right-field line, the Braves had two runs and a third-inning lead they would never give up.

Freeman had yet another hit against the Mets. He would finish the night with three of them, including an RBI double in the fifth inning that gave him 41 RBIs in his past 40 games against the Mets. Freeman is hitting .350 with 12 home runs in that span.

It's worth noting that Freeman hits well against everyone (his batting average this season is .413). Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets are now 2-6 at home this season, as opposed to 6-3 on the road.

To replay … or not: The new instant-replay system hasn't helped the Mets the past two nights. On Friday, it was a questionable call at first base that was followed by a "fourth out" at third base, which kept manager Terry Collins from putting in a challenge.

Then came the key play in Saturday night's game, the third-inning Freeman infield single. Television replays showed the ball might have hit Freeman's front foot, which would have made it a foul ball. Collins asked the umpires about it but was never able to put in an official challenge because the replay rules don't allow managers to challenge fair/foul calls when the ball doesn't leave the infield or was hit off the batter's foot. There was some disagreement on how conclusive the replays were, anyway.

Not so Grand: The boos at Citi Field are getting louder for Curtis Granderson, the $60 million cleanup hitter whose Mets career is off to a dreadful start. Granderson was hitless in five at-bats Saturday, dropping his average to .140 through 16 games. Worse yet, he has just four RBIs after leaving six more runners on base in this game.

More boos: Is Jose Valverde really still the Mets' closer? Valverde didn't pitch in a save situation Saturday, but the long three-run homer he allowed to Justin Upton deprived Braves closer Craig Kimbrel of a chance at a save. Valverde has allowed four home runs in his past three appearances, and the latest one looked bigger after the Mets scored two runs and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

Luke vs. Ike: The first-base competition that never was essentially ended when the Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. But minutes after Davis doubled in his first at-bat Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Lucas Duda doubled to lead off the second inning for the Mets. Davis reached base safely in his first three plate appearances for the Pirates and scored two runs. Duda ended the night 1-for-4 after just missing a go-ahead home run on an eighth-inning fly ball to the wall in right field.

Young firsts: Chris Young, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, finally got his first Mets hit, a leadoff double off Ervin Santana in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Eric Young Jr. was caught stealing for the first time this season after being successful on his first 10 tries (including one that led to the Mets' first-inning run Saturday).

The Colon show: Colon was neither as good as he was 10 days ago against the Braves (seven shutout innings) nor as bad as he was last Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels (nine runs allowed), but Colon (three earned runs in seven innings) was as entertaining as ever, especially when he came to the plate. He struck out in both at-bats Saturday, seeing six pitches and swinging violently at five of them.

On one swing in the second inning, Colon swung so hard his helmet came off. Perhaps not the best thing for a pitcher who complained last week of back spasms, but entertaining nonetheless.

What's next: The Mets and Braves close out this three-game series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.67 ERA) starts for the Mets, while rookie right-hander David Hale (0-0, 2.89) pitches for the Braves.

Time for Lucas Duda to prove he belongs

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
NEW YORK -- Lucas Duda knows his job isn't really safe.

It’s a little safer than it was prior to Friday, when the New York Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates and thus made it official that Duda is their chosen first baseman. But if the Mets thought the trade would take away any pressure Duda felt, well, it may not work.

"Maybe a little bit," Duda said Saturday afternoon, before the Mets played the Atlanta Braves. "But I still have to produce. If I don't produce, I won't play. If I don’t get the job done, someone else will."

He's right, of course -- even if the trade left the Mets without an obvious option sitting on the bench.

If Duda doesn't hit -- he's batting .256 through 15 games, with three home runs and a .798 OPS -- we'll all be asking when the Mets are going to find someone else.

"I'm not done [answering questions about first base]," manager Terry Collins said. "[Sometime, Duda] is going to be 0-for-15. Ike's going to have eight home runs [with the Pirates]. You're going to ask."

Collins isn't predicting failure for Duda. The Mets chose him over Davis because they think he has a better chance to succeed. The point is simply that the game is about production, especially for 28-year-old first basemen who aren't established, big league hitters yet.

The hope is that Duda can now become established. The hope, realistic or not, is that by trading Davis now, the Mets move that along.

"I'm hoping now Lucas doesn't have to worry that Ike's looking over his shoulder and that if he's 0-for-4, Ike's going to play," Collins said. "It's like, 'Hey look, Luke, it's yours.'

"I just think it should help."

Saturday's game will mark Duda's fourth start in the past five games, and his 10th in the Mets' first 17 games of the season. The Mets still have Josh Satin on the roster -- he has started against left-handed pitchers.

Mejia OK: Jenrry Mejia had no problems during his bullpen session Saturday and is set to start Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Mejia left his last start after just 77 pitches because of a blister.

Clearing things up: Collins and the Mets asked for a clarification Saturday on a disputed play in the second inning of Friday's loss to the Braves. Travis d'Arnaud was called out at first base on a close play, one that Collins considered challenging under the new instant replay rules.

The issue was that after d'Arnaud was called out at first, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman threw the ball to third base, where Duda (running from first) was tagged out by third baseman Chris Johnson. The umpires told Collins that even if the call at first base was reversed, the inning was probably over because Duda was out.

Collins then decided to save his challenge.

The Mets were told Saturday that if the call at first had been reversed, the replay umpires could have ruled Duda safe (either at second base or third), on the basis that he slowed down once he saw the out call at first. Duda confirmed Saturday that he did slow down, and said he thinks that if he had run full speed, "it would have been close" at third.

Harvey report: Matt Harvey still has a long way to go returning from Tommy John surgery, but he has gone from throwing from 75 feet to throwing from 90 feet.

Lannan decision? The Mets said they have yet to get a decision from John Lannan, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster and offered a spot at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets told Lannan he could work as either a starter or a reliever -- his choice -- if he accepts the assignment.

Lucas Duda will start Tuesday in Atlanta

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
NEW YORK -- Lucas Duda will start at first base Tuesday in Atlanta, New York Mets manager Terry Collins confirmed prior to Sunday's game.

Ike Davis hit a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam Saturday, and will start at first base Sunday. But Davis was already scheduled to start Sunday, prior to the game-winning home run.

Collins is not abandoning his plan to give Duda the first crack at being his regular starting first baseman -- not yet, anyway.

"We’ve gotta at least stick by our plan a little bit," Collins said.

Duda hit two home runs Friday, but went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Saturday.

Davis will bat fifth Sunday. But no matter what he does at the plate, he'll be back on the bench for the Mets' next game.

"I hope Ike has a big game today," Collins said. "[But] the plan is set in stone in Atlanta."

Collins holds court in Las Vegas

March, 15, 2014
Mar 15
LAS VEGAS -- Holding court with the media at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field on Saturday morning, Mets manager Terry Collins recalled his days as a player and manager in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

“I’ve seen some balls six feet high go out of here,” he said.

A light-hitting career minor leaguer who played parts of six seasons for the PCL’s Albuquerque Dukes, Collins joked that the ball flies so easily out of the league’s ballparks that even he was able to hit one out once.

"I hit a home run one day in Albuquerque. They’re still talking about it," said Collins, who actually had six home runs in 2,009 career at-bats in the minors. "The other team’s manager was Rocky Bridges. When I hit it, he said, 'Oh no. Not you.'"

In all seriousness, Collins said he doesn’t think pitching in Las Vegas, New York’s Triple-A affiliate, and other PCL parks adversely affects Mets prospects.

“There’s bandboxes in the big leagues, too,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to make pitches. It doesn’t hurt them.

“I know guys are going to hit home runs out here. If you’re hitting the ball hard, you’re going to hit home runs in the big leagues. Balls fly out of Philly just like they fly out of here. They fly out of Cincinnati just like they fly out of here.”

Collins and Sandy Alderson touched on several topics regarding Las Vegas, including the subpar facilities at the aging ballpark and the performance of 51s manager Wally Backman, who guided them to an 81-63 record and a division title last season.

Collins on the facilities: “I know they hired a new groundskeeper and the field looks absolutely great. But the issues have always been they need an indoor batting cage here when it’s 120 degrees in the summertime. They do a great job here, but the game has changed, with all the new parks around. I just hope there’s a chance one of these days there will be a new one built here.”

Alderson on the facilities: “I think the 51s would admit their facilities here aren’t ideal, with an outdoor batting cage and things of that sort. But they continue to make improvements. They have a new groundskeeper here and I think they’re moving in the right direction.”

Collins on Backman: “Wally Backman is one of the best baseball guys you can be around. He knows how to win. He’s done it. That’s been his whole life. He exudes the kind of player he was. ... Players take on the personality of the manager. If the players that leave Las Vegas take on Wally’s personality, we’re going to be better.”

Alderson on the possibility of the Mets renewing their affiliation with Las Vegas after this season: “We’ll just have to see how things develop. We didn’t anticipate being here last year, so the last thing I’m going to do is speculate about next year. But we have a good relationship with the 51s staff here and there are some positive aspects to being out here. Frankly, I think it was a nice change from Buffalo.”

Ike and Duda updates: Collins also discussed the progress of first basemen Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, who both remained in Florida to rehabilitate injuries.

“They did their morning workout, they hit, they did their ground balls. Duda is still ahead of Davis. There’s a good chance we’re going to run [Duda] on the bases tomorrow [Sunday]. We’re hoping Monday or Tuesday he’ll be in the lineup.”

Lucas Duda auditioning for 2014

September, 13, 2013
Lucas DudaAP Photo/Bill KostrounLucas 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.

Mets outfield now statistically respectable

August, 9, 2013

AP PhotoThe defense of Juan Lagares and Marlon Byrd has been key to the Mets' improvement.
The Mets season didn't necessarily turn when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his dramatic walk-off homer to beat the Chicago Cubs on June 16.

It changed for the better because of a decision made after that game, and we're not talking about that which led to the arrivals of Zack Wheeler and Eric Young Jr.

One of the other things that happened prior to their five-game series with the Atlanta Braves: The Mets made the decision to move Lucas Duda out of their outfield.

That move improved the team significantly both in the field and at the plate.

That outfield will be tested this series on the offensive end by pitchers like Arizona Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin and on the defensive end by a spacious ballpark with nooks and crannies in the deepest parts of the park.

As the chart on the right notes, the Mets outfield has gone from living up to the expectation that it would be among the worst in franchise history to being respectably average.

The three players who have gotten the most at-bats -- Marlon Byrd, Juan Lagares and Young, are hitting a combined .286 with eight homers and 59 RBI since June 17. The overall outfield batting average is 60 points better and their OPS has jumped 64 points.

The Mets outfield has hit a little bit of a skid recently (a .212/.280/.318 slashline in seven games this month), but that has not impacted their play on the other side of the ball.

By the eye test, you can tell that the Mets outfield defense has played well recently, but we can apply the numbers to show that too.

One of the tools at our disposal allows us to estimated batted-ball distance, and though there is some margin for error (due to the way data is collected), the before/after differences for the Mets are stark. Again, refer to the chart on the right for specifics.

An increase in out rate of four percentage points may not sound like much, but think of it of what it is in terms of on-base percentage -- about a 40 point difference.

And they've also succeeded in making the more difficult play.

Instead of the stumbles and missteps that took place in the season's first two-and-a-half months, you're seeing plays like the diving catch Eric Young Jr. made to rob Todd Helton of a bases-loaded hit on Tuesday night, the frequent sprinting catches by Lagares, and the terrific throws from Byrd (save for his one day last week battling the sun).

The Young catch was one of 20 "Good Fielding Plays" (think Web Gem nominees, as charted by a video-review crew from Baseball Info Solutions) Mets outfielders have made on catch attempts in the last 48 games.

That's the same number that they had in the first 64 games of the season. In those games they made more misplays/errors (also charted by video review) than catches. Since the start of the Atlanta series, the Mets have had more positive plays than negative ones.

The sum of this has been that a better outfield has made for a better and more watchable team. The Mets were 25-39 prior to changing their outfield look.

They are 27-21 since then.

Duda delivers in Mets' 5-1 win

June, 13, 2013
NEW YORK-- As Ike Davis tries to find his swing in the minors, the pressure falls on Lucas Duda to supply the team with left-handed power.

Wednesday night, Duda delivered.

Duda hit his 11th homer of the year and drove in two runs in the Mets' 5-1 win over the Cardinals at Citi Field. Duda hit a solo shot in the fourth to give the Mets a 3-0 lead and also had an RBI single in the first inning to make it 2-0. Duda now is tied for the team lead in homers and has 22 RBIs.

[+] EnlargeDuda
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)Lucas Duda homered for the 11th time this season in the Mets' 5-1 win over the Cardinals at Citi Field.
"It's invaluable," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Duda providing power. "I can't tell you the difference it will make if he starts driving in runs. Not just via the home run but just big hits."

Collins said he entered the season believing the team needed Duda, Davis, David Wright and Daniel Murphy to be big run producers. Wright and Murphy have held up their end of the bargain, but Davis has struggled and Duda has been inconsistent. His lack of production with runners in scoring position has limited him to those 22 RBIs, despite the 11 homers, and a .231 average.

Wright is able to provide a good power source from the right side, but Davis' lack of homers and a dearth of mashing lefties leaves the Mets overly dependent on Duda. Wright said the team is expecting Duda to drive in runs and have big at-bats, and he's seen progress from the lumbering outfielder.

"He's hit some home runs, but to be able to bear down in the situation where there are some runners in scoring position, where maybe you need just a run-scoring single, I think is something he seems more comfortable in that role now than he was previous years or even at the beginning of this year," Wright said.

Earlier this week, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he doesn't view Duda as a player that is part of the team's core moving forward. Duda didn't specifically address those comments after the win.

"Just take it day by day," Duda said. "That's all you can really do. Play baseball and have fun."

BIG PLAY: Daniel Murphy helped pad the Mets lead in the first inning with great base running.

With the Mets up 1-0 with two outs and Murphy at the first, Duda hit a single to right. Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran fielded it and threw to second, but as the throw came in, Murphy rounded third and was able to beat a throw to the plate to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

"One of the things we always want to do is score from first, 3-2, on a long single in that situation," Wright said. " Obviously Murphy was hustling and [third base coach] Tim Teufel did a nice job with the call, he saw that Beltran was going to second and kept waving. I think that's something we have to do is be aggressive on the base paths. Something we preach is we got to be able to take that extra base, got to be able to put that extra pressure on the defense and that play exemplifies that."

Lucas Duda



Bartolo Colon
15 4.09 151 202
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187