Mets

Palladino: Punting On First Base Does The Mets No Good

Lucas Duda (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Lucas Duda (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that both Lucas Duda and Ike Davis will be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster, though he doesn’t know who will be the starting first baseman.

As with the Flushing franchise, it now has a situation that begs a mixed metaphor. This spring training-long competition between Davis and Duda was supposed to decide the first-base issue once and for all. Decisively. Permanently.

It turned out to be anything but that. Instead, the team’s GM punted. We use that football terminology not just to show our dexterity in cross-referencing sports, but to quite literally show the indecisiveness that reigns high above the dugout.

Truth be told, if spring-training stats are the main indicator of such things, Davis will probably get the nod at first. In seven games, he’s hit .250 off a small sampling. He’s had just 20 at-bats and five hits. But two of those were homers.

Duda has played six games, and sits at .200 with three hits in 15 ABs.

So figure on Davis, the more natural first baseman, to start on Opening Day. And pray the kid doesn’t mimic last season and that .165 BA he compiled before the All-Star break.

Duda will probably play, anyway, since the Mets’ first road trip includes a stop in Anaheim. They’ll need a DH there, so Duda and his two spring-training homers will likely get the nod.

Still, the situation begs a solution that never did come in the offseason. The Mets’ intentions of trading Davis for something useful fizzled quickly. Then, before the competition even started, Davis came up with a tight calf and Duda a bad hamstring. Each missed 16 games.

Because of that, there hasn’t been much of a head-to-head comparison at all. With less than a week before the real games begin, all Alderson and Terry Collins can hope for is that one of these guys gets on a hot streak that could, might, possibly carry over into the season.

Barring that, one might forgive Alderson if, seeing no other options at first except Josh Satin — who has hit a team-high .361 over 22 games this spring — he picks Davis, at least to start the season. Aside from going with Satin from the beginning, the all-or-nothing power hitter would probably be the wisest choice right now.

Besides, Davis certainly didn’t hurt his cause with that two-run homer he belted off the Marlins on Saturday.

The future of the position? That’s up to Collins. The injuries turned the situation into a mess, and Collins probably will still be going day by day well into April.

Not that first base is all he has to worry about. The rotation, now with Dillon Gee as the Opening Day starter, is still unsettled at the back-end. Daisuke Matsuzaka looked strong in fanning the first three batters and allowing one run over six innings against the Cardinals on Monday. Notwithstanding the unfortunate triple-K tweet, he may have put himself in line for the fifth spot.

But like first base, it would have been nice if he or Jenrry Mejia had stepped up decisively before this and locked down the job. Mejia did his job, striking out 10 with a 2.89 ERA over 9 1/3 innings.
Matsuzaka sits at 3.86 over five starts, with 17 strikeouts.

Collins may need both depending on what happens with the injured Jon Niese and youngsters Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

And then there’s the rest of the team and its assorted question marks. Can you spell Ruben Tejada?

The first-base situation will not alone determine whether Alderson gets his wish for a 90-win season. But it will play a role.

Alderson did Duda, Davis and himself no favors by punting the situation away on Tuesday.

What this team needed — right or wrong — was a powerful, first-down run up the middle.

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