NEW YORK -- The platoon is on.
Manager Terry Collins started left-handed hitters Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin in the corner outfield spots on Wednesday, choosing to sit Jason Bay after the right-handed-hitting left fielder started in 17 of 21 games since returning from the disabled list on July 17.
The Mets had hoped Bay's bat would bring some power to their lineup in light of Lucas Duda's demotion to Triple-A, but the left fielder has gone 7-for-59 since he took over in left, and he hasn't hit a home run since July 18. With the Marlins sending right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound on Wednesday night, Collins finally felt it was time to move to a more permanent outfield platoon.
"We're going to certainly pick our spots for [Bay] to play," Collins said. "I'll put him in against some right-handed pitchers that he's had good success against when he's starting to swing the bat like he's capable of."
Collins' decision to start Baxter in right field and Valdespin in left field on Wednesday was based on Baxter's more polished resume in the outfield. Valdespin, a converted infielder, will play what Collins believes is the easier of the two corner outfield positions against right-handers.
But once Duda proves he's fixed his swing in Buffalo, that could all change. Collins said Bay and Duda could platoon in left field -- where Duda played in the Minor Leagues -- leaving the roles for Baxter, Valdespin and Scott Hairston at the manager's discretion.
Triple-A manager Wally Backman told Collins that Duda is beginning to look better at the plate, where he's cut down on the amount of extraneous movement and developed a quieter swing.
"My whole thing was, what got Lucas Duda to the Major Leagues was his ability to drive the ball to left-center field," Collins said. "You look back to last year, when he did damage, he drove the balls to left-center and right-center field off lefties or righties. All of the sudden this year, it was, 'I've got to pull. I've got to hit balls in the seats.'"
Collins and Bay had a talk on Tuesday about the change in the outfielder's role going forward. Neither could offer a reason for why Bay's power has suddenly gone missing.
"We watch him on a daily basis hit balls in the upper deck, and it sounds like it might be easy because it's batting practice, but you've got to supply the power in batting practice because it's 60 mph as compared to 90 in a game," Collins said. "We know it's still in there. We've just got to somehow get him back in."