If the Mets' marketing people are smart, "I Like Ike" T-shirts will be on sale tonight at the Citi Field souvenir stands. The Mets might as well capitalize on one of the few bits of good news they have had in recent seasons.
First baseman Ike Davis made his major league debut Monday night and helped the Mets to a 6-1 victory over the Cubs by going 2-for-4 with an RBI after being called up from Triple-A earlier in the day. It was something to excite Mets fans who have suffered through a lot the past couple of years.
The book on the 23-year-old son of former major league reliever Ron Davis coming into spring training was that he would need a full season at Buffalo learning to hit off-speed pitches and hanging in better against left-handers. (He had a .672 OPS against minor league southpaws in 2009.) However, the left-handed hitter showed in spring training and during the first two weeks of the International League season that he was making rapid progress. Thus, the Mets did not hesitate to call him up Monday, and Davis showed an ability to hit non-fastballs and lefties in his debut.
In his first plate appearance Davis saw a slider, a changeup, a sinker and another change from Cubs starter Randy Wells before getting his first fastball, which he took for a ball. Davis then flared a soft single into right field on a 2-2 change.
Wells refused to challenge Davis during his second time up in the fifth inning, as he threw a sinker and then a slider that resulted in a routine fly out to left field. Wells came with a first-pitch fastball an inning later, though, and Davis nearly made him pay by hitting the 89 mph pitch to deep right-center field, where right fielder Xavier Nady ran it down. It would have been a home run in many other major league parks, but not in cavernous Citi Field.
Davis faced his biggest challenge in the seventh inning, when Cubs manager Lou Piniella brought in left-hander Sean Marshall to face the rookie with runners on first and third. Marshall started the at-bat with three straight curveballs, falling behind 2-1 before Davis laced a slider into center field for a single and his first career RBI.
In all, Davis saw 13 pitches and only two were fastballs. Yet he managed a pair of hits on non-fastballs, making for a solid debut for Davis and good news for the Mets, whose first basemen had combined for the second-worst OPS (.516) in the National League before Monday, ahead of only the Pirates (.391).
More nights like that and the Citi Field denizens will have plenty of reasons to like Ike.
John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus.