The Mets were losing both games and bodies, and Lucas Duda was not compiling the kind of offensive numbers to continue to justify a spot in the lineup.
Duda and reliever Pedro Beato were both optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Matt Harvey and Manny Acosta yesterday. Duda was not in the clubhouse Tuesday, but his jersey was hanging in his locker.
Duda was hitting .241 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and 37 runs scored for the season. However, he was just 6-for-43 with five runs scored, a homer and an RBI in July. His swoon mirrors that of the Mets, who entered Tuesday night’s game against NL East-leading Washington 4-13 this month. The Mets had lost four in a row and 10-of-11.
“A lot of us were against the idea in the beginning,” Collins said in his pre-game press conference. “But we’ve got to get it done and we’ve got to start winning baseball games.”
Duda, a natural first baseman and left fielder, had been playing right field this season. Collins felt that Duda’s discomfort in right field affected his hitting. He was routinely being beaten by pitches low and outside. Duda’s last multi-hit game was in a 9-0 win over the Dodgers on June 29. He went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
“I’m responsible for it by putting him in right field. He’s playing out of position. He’s doing an absolutely great job,” Collins said. “But he’s here to hit. He’s not hitting and we’ve got to get it fixed.
“Knowing Lucas Duda, there was probably some thoughts of, ‘I really have to hit; I have to hit homers,’” Collins said. “What we’ve seen the last month is not the Lucas Duda we know. Everything was pull, pull, pull and that’s not the kind of hitter he was.”
Duda will play first base and left field in Buffalo. A call-up later in the season could present tricky waters for the manager to navigate. Ike Davis is the everyday first baseman and Jason Bay is the starting left fielder despite his .186 batting average. He has five homers and eight RBI in 30 games.
“I told him we were going to put [him] back where he was comfortable, see if that gets him where he can concentrate on his offense. That’s what’s going to get him back here,” Collins said. “I just hope Lucas goes down, tears it up and gets back here. Then we’ll figure out where he’s [going to] play.
“If he goes down there and plays left field [comfortably], and Jason Bay is swinging the bat, we’ll figure it out,” Collins said. “We’ll figure it out how to get them both in there.”
The determination to send Duda to Buffalo is fascinating because when Davis began the year hitting under .200, organizational decision-makers decided to keep the first baseman with the major league club. Davis is hitting just .208 for the season, but his 15 home runs is tied with David Wright for the team lead and his 55 RBI is second-most behind the third baseman’s 67.
“[We] were playing [well],” Collins said about the rationale. “[Davis] was not hurting us with his performance, as a team. Lucas has really been struggling lately. He has to find that stroke that he had when he first got here.”
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.