Davis, Duda waging friendly first-base battle
Both make impact in same lineup for Mets during Friday's win over Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lucas Duda and Ike Davis wasted no time making their presence known in the Mets' lineup on Friday afternoon -- just the fourth game this spring for each and the first time since Feb. 28 that both were in the lineup at the same time.
With one out and Ruben Tejada on second, Duda was hit by a pitch from Ricky Nolasco. Davis, the next batter, drilled a two-run double to the left-center gap. Davis then scored on Andrew Brown's double to nearly the same spot.
It was part of the Mets' seven-run first-inning barrage -- sending 10 batters to the plate en route to a 9-1 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium. But seeing Duda and Davis chugging around the bases gave the Mets reason for encouragement.
Duda had been sidelined with a sore left hamstring since early March before getting into a Minor League game on Thursday, while Davis had missed almost three weeks with sore calves before playing against the Braves on Thursday.
Duda started at first base, batting third, with Davis serving as the designated hitter in the cleanup spot. Duda said he feels like he's starting to get his timing back.
"It's on its way," he said. "It's not there. But I still got a couple more games left so hopefully I can turn it up."
It was the first time Davis had actually run the bases. In nine previous plate appearances, he reached base just once, able to trot around the bases on a home run.
"It was good. The first time all spring I've been out there [on the bases], which was nice," Davis said. "Obviously, I just need to play more games so I can get baserunning a little better ready for the season. I got out there three times and I got pulled even though I got on base the fourth time. So it was good to get out there and actually score a run and run the bases, and feel like I'm playing baseball."
Davis was encouraged seeing Duda score from first base in the first.
"Got to love him, man," Davis said. "That was great, especially testing his first time out there, too. I didn't get to see how he was moving, but he scored so that was obviously a good sign."
With both appearing to be finally healthy for the final week of camp, it will be up to the Mets to decide which of the two will be the starter at first.
Duda went 1-for-3, getting hit by a pitch, with two runs scored and two RBIs, playing five defensive innings. Davis was on base four times, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, a walk, two RBIs, and a run scored. Duda hit his second home run of the spring, a two-run shot to left field on an 0-and-2 pitch from Casey Fien in the fourth. Davis followed with his second double of the game, this one down the right-field line.
"I thought they were outstanding," manager Terry Collins said. "Ike, three hits, hit the ball to different parts of the park. Lucas, that's the Lucas Duda that got him to the big leagues. The guy that can hit with the power he has the other way. So, I was very happy with the way they swung the bats."
Duda and Davis are battling for the starting first-base job. It's a situation that could be uncomfortable. But both say they are pulling for the other.
"For sure," Davis said. "I've always told you that I want us to both play. But obviously there's only one spot. But Duda's a friend of mine and I'm always hoping he does really, really well."
Including two exhibition games in Montreal, the Mets have just nine games remaining before the end of the spring season, a relatively short time to have to make such a decision.
"I've always said I thought you could get a position player ready in 10 days to two weeks," Collins said, "because you can use Minor League camp to your advantage. But I just think it's important they see big league pitching right now. So we're going to do the best we can. So, yeah, we're going to be strapped a little bit but we'll do the best we can."
Could the competition continue into the regular season?
"Well that's a great question," Collins said. "Number one, I don't think you can sit here today and say either one is going to get 500 at-bats. You just can't predict it. If somebody gets off to a slow start, we're going to make the change. We say we're going to win baseball games. So, we got to get out of the gate, we got to get out of it on a positive note. And if somebody slumps, well, we got somebody behind him."
Collins couldn't say whether he saw the competition spurring on Davis and/or Duda.
"It's tough for me to answer," he said. "I don't know what the thought process is on the whole thing. I know they were both excited to come in and what they did this winter. Both of them worked very, very hard to come into Spring Training. They were extremely disappointed with what's happened with the injuries. But I think they're fired up and eager to show everybody that they belong in the big leagues."
It is a decision for which Collins is likely to use all available time to make.
"No question about it," he said. "I think it will go right down to the wire for sure."