Duda taking more prominent role in stride
NEW YORK -- The job is his, but Lucas Duda prefers not to think of it that way. The Mets traded first baseman Ike Davis on Friday, opening the position up to Duda full time, but the veteran said Saturday that he doesn't think his situation will change much in the coming weeks and months.
"I still have to produce," he said on Saturday. "If I don't produce, I'm not going to play. No matter what the situation is, if I don't get the job done, somebody else will. That's what it comes down to."
Duda, a career .247 hitter with 47 home runs in 365 big league games, kept coming back to the same themes on Saturday. The former seventh-round draftee had played with Davis his entire career, and he said that he wishes his former teammate the best of luck with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Duda said he didn't find out that Davis was traded until just before Friday's game, and he said he didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. Duda had to text his regards to Davis, and he said he really hasn't had time to think about how the lay of the land will change at first base.
"That's one of the things I can't control," said Duda. "I can only control myself and go out there and prepare myself day in and day out. Play hard. ...The rest of the stuff is out of my hands."
Duda, a former outfielder, has played in just 93 career games at first base -- 10 of them this season -- but the Mets are hoping he'll take the job and thrive. The veteran has never had 500 at-bats in any Major League season, and the Mets hope he'll find consistency just by playing more often.
"I'm hoping that now Lucas doesn't have to worry about looking over his shoulder, where if he's 0-for-4 Ike's going to play. He's it," said manager Terry Collins of Duda and his newfound clarity at first base. "Now, he'll relax and go play. That being said, now he's got to go produce. It's the same token. He's our guy. 'Here's what we expect. Here's what we know you can do.' Let's go do that."
Duda, soft-spoken and guarded, compared to the dynamic and gregarious Davis, will never be the go-to quote after a game. But he doesn't have to be. Now, said Collins, Duda won't have to live and die with each back-page headline, and he can rest assured knowing that he's the guy at first base.
Things will be a little more difficult for the manager, but Collins knows that it's part of the job.
"We're not done," quipped Collins of the media interest at first base. "He's going to be 1-for-15 and Ike's going to have eight homers and you're going to want to know. I'm ready for those, too."