Mets 3, Cardinals 2: Lucas Duda becoming lefty specialist

JUPITER, Fla. -- Lucas Duda had three hits against left-handed pitching, two of which drove in runs, and Dillon Gee battled through seven innings as the New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium.

Manager Terry Collins has pledged not to platoon Duda at the beginning of the season, despite the first baseman hitting only .180 with two homers in 111 at-bats against southpaws in 2014. So Duda’s positive performance against left-handed pitching during Grapefruit League play is encouraging.

“It’s just one day,” Duda said. “It’s not a big deal.”

Duda opened the game’s scoring in the third with an RBI single against left-hander Marco Gonzales. In the fifth, Duda evened the score at 2 with a single against left-hander Randy Choate. Both times, Duda drove in Curtis Granderson, who went 2-for-2 with a walk to improve his Grapefruit League average to .475.

The Mets (16-11) scored the tiebreaking run in the sixth when Matt Reynolds singled, advanced to third on Anthony Recker’s double and scored on Ruben Tejada’s fielder’s choice.

Duda, who is under the Mets’ control through the 2017 season, reiterated Saturday’s reporting that talks with the team about a long-term extension are in the early stages.

“It’s kind of in preliminary talks,” he said. “… New York gave me the shot to play in the big leagues. It’s definitely a first-class organization. Unbelievable players, unbelievable staff. I’m blessed to be in the position I am.”

Duda said he would like the talks to wrap up before Opening Day.

“I’d rather get it done before the season just to concentrate on the season and focus on winning,” he said.

Gee struggled early, but wriggled free of jams by getting three double plays in the first four innings -- including a pair on sharp lineouts. He ultimately settled down and limited the Cardinals to two runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out three in seven innings. Gee threw an additional 15 pitches off a bullpen mound afterward in order to get his count to 87.

“I definitely started executing a lot better as the game went on,” Gee said. “Early I had trouble finding everything. Luckily, today I think the cutter allowed me to stay in the game long enough to figure it out. … Today wasn’t great at first, but neither are some of the outings in the season. Sometimes you have got to figure it out. I thought I did a good job of figuring it out midgame.”

Collins has not officially declared Gee as the fifth starter over Rafael Montero, although the expectation is Montero will be assigned to the bullpen. Gee said he is preparing for starting a game during the second regular-season series in Atlanta, unless informed otherwise.

“I haven’t been told anything yet,” Gee said.

Gee said his preparation for the season has not been inhibited by being used in relief early in camp, before Zack Wheeler received the torn UCL diagnosis.

Pen mighty: In the lefty-relief race, both internal candidates had flawless performances Sunday. Dario Alvarez struck out lefty-hitting Scott Moore, while Sean Gilmartin struck out two righty-hitting batters he faced.

What’s next: Montero faces right-hander Dan Haren and the Miami Marlins at 1:10 p.m. ET Monday (SNY).