The Mets are trying to figure out how to get Lucas Duda’s bat on course…
Lucas Duda has returned to the lineup after missing most of a month thanks to a herniated disc in his thoracic spine.
But he’s merely been a body in the lineup for the Mets, and not exactly the offensive force the Mets have needed him to be.
He’s just 3-for-25 with one extra-base hit and six walks in 32 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list in September 8, and hitless in his last three starts.
Due to his struggles, Duda has found himself starting in the lower part of the order in recent games.
“We have to get [Duda] as many at-bats as we possibly can, but at the same time we have to win games,” manager Terry Collins said before Wednesday’s loss to the Marlins. “Michael Conforto’s swinging pretty good, so I’m going to put him in a spot where hopefully if he gets a chance to do some damage or drive in some runs he’s going to, and yet make sure Lucas is in there to get the at-bats he needs.”
According to team hitting coach Kevin Long, the key for Duda is to get his timing back, and the only way for him to do that is to get as many reps as possible.
“He needs his timing with the leg kick,” Long told the New York Post on Tuesday afternoon. “It takes time. It took Jose Bautista time to get going. Alex [Rodriguez], I’ve seen [Duda] with his leg kick. Once he gets it going and gets the timing, kind of slows it down, he’s going to be fine.
“It’s more about getting in the reps and doing extra work, which he wasn’t able to do. He’s a workaholic, and when he can’t do his normal work routine, I think it affects him.”
Duda did get a limited number of at-bats during a rehab assignment days before he was activated from the disabled list. But Collins says while seeing pitches during a rehab assignment are important, they don’t compare to the challenge of hitting big leaguers.
“I don’t care where you send them, I don’t care who they face, it’s not the same,” Collins explained. “In order to get back in the groove, you’ve got to face big league pitching. Lucas is one of those guys who relies a lot on reps to get himself going.”
It’s been a very unusual year in general for Duda. His bat was mostly absent from May 30 until July 24 when he hit just .168/.282/.275 with nine doubles and three home runs in that 46-game span. Then suddenly, he explored at the plate, hitting .393/.452/1.393 with nine home runs and 12 RBI in a brief eight-game period.
But his bat went cold again after August 2, and in 19 games since, he’s hit just .188/.321/.250 with four doubles and seven RBI with 20 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances.
On the surface, his overall line is a notch or two below his output from 2014, but there’s more than meets the eye to his season totals. Nine of his 21 home runs came in that eight-game span in late July and early August, and six other home runs came in a span of seven games between May 21-29.
The other six have been sprinkled around his other 121 games.
He just has not been able to get on any kind of consistent roll. Of course, as Collins pointed out on Tuesday, Duda is one of those players who needs as many reps as he can get, so surely the stint on the disabled list set everything back for him. And the good news for Duda is he’s drawing a decent amount of walks and isn’t striking out very much lately, so it could simply be a matter of timing, as Long said.
All the Mets can do is hope Duda gets hot at the plate at the time they need him the most, and that time begins October 8.