Collins chooses Bay for defense in middle game

Collins chooses Bay for defense in middle game

WASHINGTON -- Despite removing Jason Bay for pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin in the ninth inning Tuesday, Mets manager Terry Collins passed on an opportunity to take Bay out of his starting lineup the following day. Citing a need for fortified outfield defense with extreme fly-ball pitcher Chris Young on the mound, Collins opted to start Bay over Valdespin in left field.

But that does not mean Bay is an everyday player for the Mets. After missing two large chunks of this season with a fractured left rib and a concussion, Bay must earn his way back into regular playing time.

"I'm going to mix and match a little bit," Collins said of his outfield situation, after speaking to Bay about the subject Wednesday afternoon.

That could mean additional playing time for Valdespin or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, with Bay and Scott Hairston starting regularly at the corner outfield positions against left-handed pitchers. It could also mean a reduction in time for right fielder Lucas Duda, who returned to the lineup Wednesday, two days after receiving a cortisone injection in his strained left hamstring. Duda has scuffled against left-handers this season, slugging just .315 with a .274 on-base percentage.

But Bay nonetheless remains one of the top priorities in that outfield mix, given his potential to fill the Mets' need for a power right-handed bat.

"We've got to get him right," Collins said, while also referencing his other slumping players. "We did it with Ike [Davis] and we got him right. It's the same thing with Lucas right now. Lucas is going through a little bit of a funk, but we know how important his bat is in our lineup. We've got to get him in there and get him started again."