(Long Island, N.Y.) It’s a good thing that Citi Field was designed to be a pitcher’s park because the New York Mets have been as productive in the home run department as a team during the Dead Ball era. Injuries have derailed them somewhat, but they weren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard before that.
Carlos Beltran leads the team with 10 long balls and they even put struggling left fielder Jason Bay into the cleanup spot this week in an interleague series versus the Oakland Athletics. He replaced Daniel Murphy, who replaced Ike Davis in the four hole.
Davis was doing well with seven home runs through the first 36 games of the season before he went on the disabled list following a May 10 collision with David Wright fielding an infield popup. The left-handed hitting first baseman suffered a deep bone bruise to his left ankle and possible cartilage damage and may have to undergo season-ending surgery if it does not begin to heal soon.
That will put added pressure on Terry Collins to find the right man for the spot. Easier said than done and even Wright is not an option with him being on the shelf himself with a stress fracture in his back. It has been cleanup hitter by committee and that appears likely to continue until someone can step up and distance himself from the pack.
Perhaps that person will in fact be Bay, who did display some decent power ability throughout his major league career before signing with the Mets last winter. Since 2004, Bay hit 26, 32, 35, 21, 31 and 36 home runs before hitting bottom with a scant six during his first year in New York. That has continued this season with only three, but the 32-year-old has shown glimpses of finally breaking through of late.
On Tuesday evening, Bay had three hits, including a home run. “I was real excited for him,” Collins said to reporters. “He hit those balls hard – even the single was hard. It was a good night for him.”
And also a good night for Collins, even though the Mets were defeated by the A’s, 7-3. He has been pressing Bay’s buttons, moving him down in the batting order and even benching him when necessary. Only time will tell if the game was an aberration or not, but Collins rewarded Bay for it right away and that showing of confidence may be a springboard for better days ahead.
If Bay doesn’t work out there, then Collins may have little choice but to give Lucas Duda a legitimate opportunity to show that he can hit for power at this level. He has a sweet left-handed swing and may grow into being a power hitter. Duda, 25, hit 10 home runs in 38 games at Triple-A Buffalo before being called up. Being a corner outfielder/ first baseman will help get him at-bats, too.
Someone on the current roster will have to get it done because the Mets will be sellers and not buyers at the July 31st trading deadline. Duda has the most upside out of the contenders, so Collins may be better off letting him endure the growing pains most young ballplayers go through.