Duda hopes jitters are behind him

Terry Collins said Lucas Duda, who joined the Mets on Friday in place of Nick Evans, will not have a shortage of playing time.

Duda is starting in left field in the series opener in Pittsburgh, and may find himself again in that position Saturday if Jason Bay sits a third straight game, which is unresolved. Otherwise, Duda would shift to first base, with Daniel Murphy starting a game at third to give Justin Turner a rest.

Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda

#21 LF
New York Mets

2011 STATS

  • GM11
  • HR0

  • RBI1

  • R1

  • OBP.217

  • AVG.100

The lefty-hitting Duda, who had seven homers in 14 games with Buffalo after returning from a back injury, may be in the lineup three straight days before sitting Monday’s series finale, when the Pirates start southpaw Paul Maholm.

“We’re going to juggle some things and make sure Lucas gets some at-bats,” Collins said. “I think Justin has done as good a job as anybody on this club for a long time. He might be running a little low on fuel right now.”

In 104 career major league at-bats, Duda is hitting .183 with four homers and 14 RBIs. He said he has been overwhelmed and nervous in past stints, and hopes that is behind him now.

“Any time you get an opportunity like this, you want to make the most of it,” Duda said. “I think the last couple of times I haven’t made the most of it. But if you play good in the minors, in Triple-A, I think they might throw you a bone and give you another shot.”

Why the nerves?

“It’s your goal in life. It’s your dream. And you get kind of nervous,” Duda said. “At least I do. I feel like I have to make the most of it, and sometimes I press. … I think the last couple of times I’ve been up I haven’t been too confident in myself.”

Collins formerly oversaw the minors, and saw Duda with Buffalo last year. He wants to see Duda use his lower body to drive the ball, as Duda did when Collins watched him in Triple-A. Collins suggested Duda’s confidence should be bolstered by how many fellow Buffalo players are now alongside him at the major league level. Friday’s starting lineup included three other players who have appeared with the Bisons this season: Ruben Tejada, Dillon Gee and Turner.

“I want to see the swings that I know he has,” Collins said. “I’m not asking him to hit homers. I know from the other times he’s been here, because I’ve seen him, that there’s a better swing in there.”

As for the back injury that sidelined him for three weeks in Triple-A, Duda said it occurred on a swing and ended up affecting his right oblique. But he returned with sizzling production in 14 games with the Bisons.

“I mean, this can’t be a better time,” Collins said. “He’s red hot. We’ll see what he can do.”