Duda's errant Series throw drives him to be better

February 18th, 2016

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Lucas Duda still thinks about that night, the memories haunting him. Even now, a single question drifts Duda into abstraction, recalling the errant throw that allowed Eric Hosmer to tie Game 5 of the World Series in the ninth inning.

"He was dead to rights," Duda said Thursday, sitting on the dugout bench at Tradition Field. "A good throw would have got him. No excuses."

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Forget the endless debates over whether Hosmer would have been safe anyway, sending Game 5 to the extra-inning clincher it became. It is a throw, Duda says, that he can successfully make nine times out of 10, echoing the words he first spoke late that November night. It is also a throw, Duda says now, that spurred him to work as hard as ever all offseason.

"I took some time off a bit, reflected, and then I took what happened and used it as a positive," Duda said. "What happened last year happened last year. So learn from it, get better, and make sure it doesn't happen again."

With so much spring chatter centered around Yoenis Cespedes' return to the Mets and David Wright's hopes for a renaissance, there has been little talk about Duda in the early days of camp. The first baseman's unpredictable peaks and valleys have given fans reason to deride him over the years, and yet Duda's baseball card describes him as one of the Mets' most consistent offensive performers. Thirty homers in 2014. Twenty-seven last season. More games played over the past two years than anyone but Curtis Granderson, and more over the past four than anyone but the now-departed Daniel Murphy.

Even with Wright healthy and Cespedes in the fold, Duda profiles as the Mets' unquestioned cleanup hitter. Another healthy season should see him approach or surpass 30 homers once again.

But that is not what Duda eyes coming into his seventh big league camp with the Mets -- not with the taste of that World Series throw still swirling over his tongue. Instead, add Duda to the chorus saying anything less than additional postseason success will leave him disappointed.

"I'd like to go back to the World Series and win it," Duda said. "That's our goal. That's everyone's goal here. So hopefully we can make it happen."

Worth noting

• The last batch of Mets pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday, arriving at the team complex early Thursday morning for physicals. Among that group was Noah Syndergaard, who says he embraces the "intimidator" role he earned after brushing back Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar to open Game 3 of the World Series.

"I think that's an important weapon that I need to become successful," Syndergaard said. "I'm always going to go out there and play off my fastball."

• Fans are welcome to attend Mets workouts at Tradition Field beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Players are scheduled to begin stretching around 10 a.m.