Terry Collins thinks of Jason Bay as the ultimate professional.
"All he does is play the game correctly," the New York Mets' manager said on Tuesday.
Those are kind words, but they won’t do much to mollify a Mets fan base upset with the outfielder's poor production.
Bay is hitting just .218 through the first 21 games of his second season in Queens.
He scored a deep drive to left center that was caught at the wall in his first at-bat on Monday, which is just plain bad luck. But in a sign of the times for Bay, he was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt to get Carlos Beltran from first to second with none out in the bottom of the 10th. He did so successfully.
New York Mets
Collins sees that as was another example of Bay’s dedication to the team.
"This guy is as professional and as proud as anyone I've ever been around," the manager said. "He just wants to win."
Amid all of his struggles at the plate, that's the one thing Bay can control.
"When things drag on a little bit, it wears on you. And that's when you get tested. That's when you find out if you can do what you say you want to do and be the same guy. I've been tested. And I'm taking a lot of pride in, regardless of what's happened at the plate, playing defense," Bay said after Tuesday’s game against Florida was postponed. "You want me to bunt, I'll bunt. I don't care, I just work here. … It's not about egos, it's about winning ball games."
Collins and Bay speak frequently. The manager believes the outfielder will eventually break out and Mets fans will see the player who hit 36 home runs in 2009.
"You're concerned about maybe the lack of production right now, but I know one thing: September, October, those numbers will be there because that's what you do," Collins said he told Bay recently.
It's tough to imagine Bay matching his pre-Mets power numbers.
After all, he has just eight home runs in 115 games as a Met.
Sure, Bay has been hampered by injuries since signing a four-year, $66 million contract prior to the 2010 season. But he has just four homers in 192 career at-bats at Citi Field.
"Obviously, what happened last year is done and I've come to terms with that and that's finished," said Bay, who hit .259 with hit six home runs in 95 games in 2010 before a concussion ended his season. "I'm not going to base my entire year on 75 at-bats. I'd like it to be better and it should be better. [But] I'm not going to sit here and tell you that my whole season hinges on the first three weeks that I've been here."
Bay has two home runs and six RBI so far in 2011. He is a career .277 hitter and has averaged 21 homers and 77 RBIs in seven-plus major league seasons.
He feels like he can still reach those numbers this season, noting that he’s had some good at-bats recently. Bay points to the deep drive to left-center he hit off of Johnson in the first inning on Monday as an example.
"It could have been a momentum-changer, and it wasn't. Those are the types of things I think that often go unnoticed," Bay said.
He added: "I feel much better at the plate. I’ve been walking more. I'm just not getting great results. But once again, once the ball leaves my bat, I can't control that. So you just keep doing those things and hope it turns around."