MILWAUKEE -- Jason Bay had been due Friday to play his first game in Pittsburgh since his last day as a Pirate. That was July 30, 2008, after which he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in that three-team deal that landed Manny Ramirez in L.A.
Except that Bay will not be in the starting lineup for the series opener against the Pirates, as he was not in the lineup for the Mets' 4-1 rubber-game victory against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. In a collaborative decision with manager Terry Collins, Bay is due to sit for a second straight day as he works with hitting coach Dave Hudgens to remedy his swing.
The goal: to rediscover the hitting mechanics from his Pirates days. In an 0-for-23 slump, Bay's stroke has drifted so far that it actually no longer feels natural to duplicate.
"It's not like a month layoff or anything," Bay said about the two-day benching. "It's a couple of days. We'll see if that works."
For the Mets' sake, it better work.
Jason Pridie filled in well in left field Thursday night, scoring the Mets' opening run and driving in the team's second run with a sacrifice fly. He also made a stellar catch while retreating on Ryan Braun's drive to end the eighth inning. That stranded a pair of runners, as Francisco Rodriguez began a four-out save.
Pridie had a positive showing, but Bay is less than halfway through the second season of a four-year, $66 million deal. Actually, it's a five-year, $80 million deal if a vesting option kicks in based on plate appearances. So Bay has to succeed in rediscovering his former form.
Otherwise, the payroll implications for the Mets could be dire.
The combination of Johan Santana and Bay is due to make $40 million in 2012 and $50 million in 2013, assuming each gets a buyout in the latter year rather than an option exercised for 2014.
Despite positive strides in his return from Sept. 14 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, there is no certainty Santana will discover his previous form. Carrying two potentially unproductive contracts of that magnitude for two more seasons given the ownership's financial difficulties would be crippling. And no, they're not movable in trades.
But that's for another day.
Collins and the Mets certainly are entitled to celebrate the rubber-game win in Milwaukee against Yovani Gallardo, who had a six-game personal winning streak snapped.
"You can't take the place of the guys, because obviously those are superstar players," Pridie said, referring not just to Bay's absence from the lineup, but to injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis that might sideline both into mid-July. "Those are some special players. You can't take the place. But the feeling on this team is that we've got guys that can step in and produce. And I think that's a good feeling overall to help the team go."
Pridie had started only twice since May 26 and acknowledged coming off the bench can be a challenge. Still, Pridie noted, he cannot think about it that way.
"I can't think it's difficult," he said. "You can't go out there thinking that. I mean, this game is hard enough. If you go out there thinking, 'Oh, I haven't got a start in four days or just a couple of pinch-hits,' it'll just get that much harder. It is difficult because you're not starting every day. But for me, I try to erase that mentality. And every time my name is on the lineup card, I go in there and play like I've played every day."