Davis, Duda begin first-base competition in earnest
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Given the difficulty the Mets have had in unearthing consistent first-base production over the past few years, it would have been reasonable to expect a slow start to this spring's competition between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.
Instead, the opposite unfolded Friday afternoon at Tradition Field. In the Mets' first game of the Grapefruit League season, Davis blasted a two-run homer and Duda hit the ball hard twice, finishing 1-for-3 with a double.
"It was great, Ike and Duda both," manager Terry Collins said. "Really good to see. They came ready to play, they came ready to make the club, and certainly it was a great day for them both.
"I really think they're bound and determined to make every game count. As I told them both, 'I know it's Spring Training and we've got a long way to go, but each time you're out there, go get yourself ready to play.' And they showed that today."
Davis' Grapefruit League debut was more memorable than Duda's, simply because his hit went over the fence. The two-run blast off Christian Garcia gave the Mets an early three-run lead over the Nationals, who came from behind to win the game, 5-4.
It may be early in spring, but Collins raved that Davis' swing "looks significantly different," and the first baseman was equally pleased by his ability to drive the ball. Though his .327 batting average last spring did nothing to foreshadow the massive early season slump that followed, that went along with only one home run in 55 at-bats. He has already matched that total in 2014.
"It was good, a good day," Davis said. "I felt decently comfortable in there. Obviously they weren't throwing curveballs or anything yet, but it felt good to get one on the barrel.
"I can tell in BP I'm hitting the ball a little bit better than last year, obviously. But it's all about making contact and then hitting the ball on the barrel a little bit more often than I have. It's going to take time in games, and obviously I've put up decent numbers in Spring Training before."
Had Duda's second-inning drive not settled into the glove of sprinting Nationals outfielder Eury Perez, he would have finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. As it was, Duda hit two balls hard en route to a 1-for-3 afternoon, the hit coming on a broken-bat liner that nearly reached the fence.
"I feel good so far and hopefully it will continue," Duda said. "The swing feels good and hopefully I can build on it."
And as for the competition?
"I'm always rooting for Ike," Duda said. "He had a great day today, and I was happy for him."