Even as Ike Davis began the process of resurrecting his once promising career, the first baseman’s specter hung over the Mets like a cloud.
Prior to Tuesday night’s 9-2 series opening loss to MLB-best St. Louis, Mets manager Terry Collins spent most of his pregame press conference explaining the organization’s rationale for finally pulling the trigger on Davis’s long-rumored demotion.
Davis, outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Robert Carson were optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas after the Mets’ 8-4 loss to the MLB-worst Marlins on Sunday. First baseman Josh Satin, centerfielder Collin Cowgill and reliever Josh Edgin were called up in the corresponding roster moves.
“As I’ve said for two years, I’ve never seen more guys cheer for a guy in my time than they do for Ike Davis, so I think there were some guys disappointed that it finally came to this,” Collins said. “But they also ultimately know it’s for the best for Ike, which ultimately will be the best for the organization.”
The first baseman was hitting just .161 with five home runs, 16 RBIs and 16 runs scored when he was sent down. His season-long struggles at the plate fueled speculation prior to the Subway Series that Davis was going to be sent down. An 8-for-37 stretch in the 11 games between May 26 and June 9 — which actually saw Davis’ batting average rise from .158 to .161 — convinced organizational decision makers it was best for both the player and the team that the first baseman be sent 2,500 miles away to work on his swing.
“I think in this particular situation, because of all the speculation for the weeks, I don’t think anybody was [numbed] by it. I think there were some guys disappointed by it for sure,” Collins said. “[Ike] is a great teammate and a good player.”
The organizational plan is to have Daniel Murphy play first and Jordany Valdespin will be at second. Murphy, the everyday second baseman, has played first base in the major leagues.
Murphy was 1-for-4 and Valdespin was 2-for-4 in Tuesday’s listless loss. Justin Turner came into the game late and replaced Valdespin defensively at second.
What was not in consideration was moving Lucas Duda from left field to first. Duda had played first base in the minors.
“We don’t think Ike [is] going to be gone very long. So we did not want to move Lucas to first base and send a terrible message that that job is taken,” Collins said. “If Ike Davis comes back and is swinging the way he can, we’re going to have a nice problem on our hands.”
Collins believes Davis’s problem is equal parts fundamental and psychological. The manager wants Davis to see the ball while limiting the amount of voices offering advice.
“It’s all up to Ike,” Collins said. “I know one thing: the hitters, you have to see the baseball. He’s not seeing it. That’s what’s got to get changed. He’s got to keep his head back. I don’t care what anybody says mechanically. I don’t care about what anybody talks about where his hands need to be. He needs to keep his hand behind the baseball. When he does that, he’s dangerous. That’s where it starts with me.
“[Hitting coach] Dave [Hudgens has] suggested some things. Guys in the minor leagues that have worked with him, [Triple-A hitting coach] George Greer being one and [minor-league hitting coordinator] Lamar Johnson being another, they’re going to have ideas. I got phone calls from high school softball coaches. ... Everybody’s calling. Everybody’s got a stinkin’ suggestion. That’s one of the reasons why he’s struggling right now, [because] he’s got 55 suggestions in his head. He’s got to settle himself in; he’s got to get in the batters’ box where he sees the baseball, is comfortable, make a couple tweaks and he’ll be fine.”
The Mets offense struggled Tuesday after putting up two runs in the first inning. After two hits in the inning, they had just three the rest of the game. Michael Wacha, a top prospect for the Cardinals, went six innings and got his first career win. Allen Craig provided a three-run homer in the fifth inning as the big hit.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.