NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The slumping New York Mets demoted starting right fielder Lucas Duda to the minors Tuesday in a mini shake-up at Citi Field.
A left-handed hitter with power, Duda appeared to establish himself in the majors with a strong second half last year and a solid start to this season. But his production had tailed off dramatically lately and he’s struggled to adapt to an unfamiliar position on defense, so the Mets sent him out to Triple-A Buffalo.
“He’s got to find that stroke that he had when he first got here,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s been playing out of position a little bit. He’s done an absolutely great job. But he’s here to hit. And when he’s not hitting, we’ve got to get it fixed.”
Right-hander Pedro Beato also was optioned to Buffalo to make room on the roster for reliever Manny Acosta and prized prospect Matt Harvey. Acosta was called up from the Bisons and Harvey is scheduled to start Thursday night in Arizona, his big league debut.
After an encouraging first half, the Mets have faded quickly. They had lost four straight and 10 of 11 going into Tuesday night’s game against NL East-leading Washington, leaving them on the fringe of the playoff race.
The 26-year-old Duda was batting .241 with 12 homers, 44 RBIs and a .335 on-base percentage. He had struck out 94 times, most on the team.
“It’s just a bad time to go into a slump, I guess. I don’t know if you can really call it a slump. Some would say that’s a pretty good year so far,” first baseman Ike Davis said. “I know I would take it.”
Earlier this season, the Mets chose not to send Davis to the minors when he was mired in a long slump, preferring that he work his way out of it at the big league level.
“No. 1, we were playing good with Ike Davis. He was not hurting us, from our performance as a team,” Collins said, explaining the different approaches. “Lucas Duda’s going to be a good player here. He gets down on himself pretty heavy and we always try to get him out of it. I don’t know if it affects his play, but you certainly see it during the tough times. And one thing at this level, if you know you’re beat and the other team knows you’re beat, you’re in trouble.”
Davis said he spoke with Duda a bit after the demotion.
“It’s tough, it really is. It’s part of the game, though,” Davis said. “I know Duda, he’ll go down and rake and hopefully be back here soon.”
Collins said Duda’s defensive shortcomings may have caused him to put extra pressure on himself at the plate. The manager said Duda will play mostly first base and left field for Buffalo, positions he’s more comfortable with than right field.
“So he can concentrate more on his offense, because that’s what’s going to get him back here,” Collins said. “What we saw here, especially in the last month, is not the Lucas Duda we know. Everything is pull, pull, pull, and that’s not the kind of hitter he was.”
Collins said Duda was disappointed by the move, as expected, and possibly a little disappointed in himself.
“I just told him today, I said, `Look, we’ve got to get this fixed. And right now I can’t get you in there because we’re not playing good. I’ve got to find some offense,” Collins said. “A lot of us were against the idea in the beginning. But we’ve got to get it done, and we’ve got to start winning baseball games. We’ve got to go with the hot hand right now.”
Duda, perhaps the quietest player on the club, had left the ballpark and was not available to reporters Tuesday. Scott Hairston started in right field.
Acosta began the season with the Mets and went 1-2 with an 11.86 ERA in 19 games before he was cut May 29. After going down to Buffalo, he was 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 17 appearances covering 28 innings.
Beato was roughed up by the Nationals on Monday night and had a 10.38 ERA in seven big league outings.
New York closer Frank Francisco, on the disabled list since June 23 with a strained left oblique, said the shot he received for his sore right knee helped and he thinks he’ll be able to begin a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday. Collins said he thinks Francisco could return to the Mets within five or six days.
“We need him back very badly,” the manager said.
Will Duda find his stroke in Buffalo? Leave a comment below.