PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most anticipated position battle in New York Mets camp is fizzling.
After a quick start, first basemen Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were sidelined with seemingly minor maladies. Davis battled sore calves for the past week, an injury that originally was believed to be minor. However, he showed up to camp March 10 with a walking boot on his right foot, increasing apprehension.
"We were concerned about it," manager Terry Collins said. "He thought it was something that was going to go away in two days, and here we are five days out and (he's) still not (recovering) fast."
Duda was unable to take advantage due to a minor left hamstring strain that forced him out of the lineup. Rather than playing every day, slugging it out in a competition to become the Mets' starting first baseman, Davis and Duda were sitting on the bench.
Each player started out hot, homering once apiece in the Mets' first two Grapefruit League games. The competition subsequently stalled.
Now, with less than three weeks left in camp, the Mets have less time to evaluate both players. Davis remains the favorite due to the 32-homer season on his resume (in 2012), and the fact that the Mets declined to trade him when they had the chance last winter. However, his injury is the more serious of the two, meaning he must prove his health in addition to his capabilities as a slugger.
Last year, Davis batted .205 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 317 at-bats. He was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas for three weeks at midseason, and he was shut down for the year at the end of August when he strained his right oblique.
Duda also spent time with Las Vegas last year. He wound up playing 100 games for the Mets and hitting .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBIs.
--2B Wilmer Flores started at shortstop March 11 for the first time since 2011, bobbling a ball at the position but making no errors. The Mets will continue to use Flores at shortstop this spring to see if he is still capable of playing his natural position at a high level. The rookie spent most of last year at second base after breaking into the majors in 2012 as a third baseman.
--1B Ike Davis came to camp March 10 sporting a walking boot on his right leg, which has been sore for more than a week. The calf injury has kept Davis out of Grapefruit League games, preventing him from competing for the Mets' first base job. Davis is day-to-day.
--1B Lucas Duda was unable to take advantage of 1B Ike Davis' leg injury because he is nursing a sore left hamstring. The Mets expect Duda to play in a minor league game later in the week of March 10-16, perhaps returning to Grapefruit League play by the weekend.
--LHP John Lannan could make the Opening Day bullpen as a reliever after the Mets cut LHPs Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich early in camp. That leaves Lannan and Scott Rice as the only lefties in camp besides starting pitcher Jon Niese. Lannan is ostensibly also competing for the fifth starter's job that is likely to go to RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka.
--LHP Jon Niese gave up four runs to the Cardinals on March 11 in his first Grapefruit League outing since the Mets shut him down with left shoulder discomfort. Niese's velocity started out low, but it reached 89 mph by the second inning. He is on track to start Opening Day.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't shy away from throwing what I'm going to throw normally. That's my pitch. I'm a fastball pitcher. That's what I'm going to use. I'm going to use my best pitch." -- RHP Bartolo Colon, on how he approaches his spring outings.
LHP Jon Niese
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Zack Wheeler
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
The first four rotation spots are written in ink, with Niese the most likely candidate to start Opening Day. Colon was a $20 million investment for the Mets, who need him to stay healthy at age 41. The Mets could also use a strong first full season from Wheeler, who showed plenty of raw ability -- but also a fair bit of inconsistency -- as a rookie. The fifth spot is up for grabs, with Matsuzaka competing against veteran lefty John Lannan, along with young right-handers Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom. If Mejia pitches well, he could have the inside track because he is already on the 40-man roster. But Matsuzaka is the most accomplished of the bunch, and pitched well for the Mets toward the end of last season.
RHP Bobby Parnell (closer)
RHP Jose Valverde
RHP Kyle Farnsworth
LHP Scott Rice
RHP Vic Black
RHP Jeurys Familia
The Mets' biggest bullpen question revolves around the health of Parnell, who underwent surgery in October to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Parnell was enjoying a strong first season as closer before his injury last summer, and insists he will be ready in plenty of time for Opening Day. If he is not, Valverde, Farnsworth and Black are all candidates to replace him. Valverde and Farnsworth are both in camp on minor league deals, and it is unclear how much either veteran has left in the tank. The Mets plan to fill out the back end of their bullpen with a mix of hard-throwing young arms. Along with Black and Familia, right-handers Gonzalez Germen and Ryan Reid and lefty Jack Leathersich will all receive long looks in camp.
1. LF Eric Young Jr.
2. 2B Daniel Murphy
3. 3B David Wright
4. RF Curtis Granderson
5. CF Chris Young
6. 1B Ike Davis
7. C Travis d'Arnaud
8. SS Ruben Tejada
Barring injury, the only thing that could change in the lineup would be Lagares making the starting eight over Eric Young. That would shift Chris Young to right field and Granderson to left, and would leave the Mets without a clear leadoff man. Murphy might be next in line to fill that role, but the Mets love the dimension that Eric Young's speed gives them. The Mets gave Granderson a four-year, $60 million deal this winter and gave Young a one-year, $7.25 million contract to add some thump to their lineup. Both are coming off down years, but Granderson has multiple 40-homer seasons on his resume and Young has a 30-homer campaign. The Mets are also hoping for bounce-back years from Davis and Tejada, as well as a breakout from d'Arnaud, who struggled in his big league debut late last year. Wright and Murphy have been steady performers in the past for the Mets, who need both to stay healthy.
TOP ROOKIES: Syndergaard became the Mets' top overall prospect after a strong year split between Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton (9-4, 3.06 ERA combined). The Mets will keep him in the minors until at least June, when they hope he can join the rotation. Other top arms include RHPs Montero (12-7, 2.78 split between Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas) and deGrom (7-7, 4.51 at St. Lucie, Binghamton and Las Vegas), both of whom will compete for the fifth starter's job in spring training. OF Matt den Dekker and OF Cesar Puello could challenge for playing time by the end of the year, but are not likely to make the team out of spring training.
--1B Ike Davis (sore right foot) was wearing a walking boot March 10, but he expected to play in games by the end of that week. Davis complained of sore calves since the first week of March.
--1B Lucas Duda (mild left hamstring strain) could return as soon as March 13. Duda tentatively was scheduled to play in a minor league game March 12.
--RHP Matt Harvey (Tommy John surgery in October 2013) threw a baseball for the first time since surgery on Feb. 22, the four-month anniversary of his operation. He will continue to throw off flat ground three times per week this spring, with the goal of returning to the Mets by Opening Day 2015.
--RHP Jeremy Hefner (Tommy John surgery in August 2013) began throwing for the first time since the operation in mid-February. Hefner hopes to contribute to the Mets by late August or September.
--LHP Jon Niese (sore left shoulder) returned to Grapefruit League action when he made a March 11 start. He should be ready for the start of the season.
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