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Ike Davis could soon be Ike Vegas

NEW YORK -- David Wright's intervention helped shield Ike Davis from a demotion to the minors while struggling a year ago. And teammates again are backing the New York Mets first baseman this season.

This time, though, the support is unlikely to forestall relocation to Triple-A Las Vegas much longer.

"I don't think there's a ton of rope, but I don't think there will be something tonight or tomorrow," a team insider told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday night about demoting Davis.

Translation: Davis should be at Citi Field on Friday when the Mets open a series with the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, but there is little assurance he remains with the major league club much beyond that point without a quick demonstration of improvement.

Davis is 1-for-his-past-38 and hitless in his past 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position. And unlike a season ago -- when the Mets could more easily overlook Davis' batting skid because the team was eight games over .500 in early June -- this time they are not getting the production elsewhere.

After getting swept by the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday afternoon despite having phenom Matt Harvey on the mound, the Mets (17-27) dropped 10 games under .500 at the earliest point in a season since May 19, 2001.

How historically bad has the 26-year-old Davis' production been this season?

He is hitting .147 with four homers and nine RBIs as June approaches, despite occupying the cleanup spot in more than half of his 37 starts. He has the lowest batting average through 143 at-bats for a major leaguer who hit 30 homers the previous season since Cleveland Indians first baseman Andre Thornton also was hitting .147 at this point in 1985, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Fielding has been problematic, too -- although Davis' relatively modest four errors mask the issue.

At Wrigley Field last Friday, Davis failed to catch a clean hop from shortstop Ruben Tejada, allowing Anthony Rizzo to score from second base. Then, in Monday's series opener against Cincinnati, Davis incurred a costly obstruction call when he mindlessly watched a baseball scoot into right field and unintentionally interfered with Joey Votto. In the ninth inning Wednesday, he let Brandon Phillips' grounder down the first-base line go by him, incorrectly thinking it was foul. The double plated the tiebreaking run in a 7-4 loss.

"I know I'm going to play better, especially hitting-wise," Davis said. "I can't do any worse."

Said Harvey: "He's our teammate. We all love him. And we're behind him every step of the way. It's unfair for everybody to be bashing him. He's working his ass off. He's part of the team. And we're always going to be behind him."

A scout who recently watched the Mets for several days offered a detailed explanation to ESPNNewYork.com of why pitchers are dominating Davis. Boiled down to its simplest form: Davis is susceptible to high heat as well as offspeed pitches below the strike zone.

"Basically, you can beat him with velocity that's up, and you can beat him with low-zone, 'chase,' softer breaking balls and changeups," the scout said. "How I describe it is he has 'in-between' swings. And with all that excessive hand movement, once you get ahead, all you have to do is continue to pitch off the plate -- not in the strike zone -- and he's going to get himself out. There's no reason to go back and challenge him. So once you get ahead, immediately make sure that nothing is on the plate. If nothing is on the plate, the worst thing he can do is get a base hit. But he can't hit for power."

How does a player who finished with 32 homers in 2012 despite a massive early rut get into this bad of a funk again?

Is it possible the aberration was last season's torrid second half -- when Davis' 20 homers were second-most in the NL behind San Diego's Chase Headley -- and this is really who Davis is?

"No, no, no," the scout said. "We were talking about this amongst ourselves, a group of guys. He needs to go down someplace and get it right. It's a hard place to get it right up here. All these guys are the best. Any flaws or holes are going to be exploited with the better stuff. What I don't grasp is: How does it not serve him going someplace [in the minors] without that pressure, where he's forced to make some of those adjustments, which are in his best interest? Forget about the team.

"He would have been better served spending some time down there last year, just for the reality of, 'OK, whatever it is that I'm doing, I have to change it,'" the scout continued. "The reality is he didn't change last year. Until you make those changes, you're just flying by the seat of your pants. You can't do that up here.

"Last year, Wright stepped up and vouched for him. That could certainly happen again. I guess my point is: A lot of times, what I hear is that he doesn't like changes. Guess what? If the carrot is the big leagues, you're more likely to get him to make some of those changes if you're not in the big leagues. You want to get back there bad enough."

A demotion would not be unprecedented. While Davis avoided Triple-A last season and eventually hit .255 with 20 homers and 41 RBIs in the second half, Lucas Duda did get dispatched to the minors in 2012. Also last season, comparably established first basemen Gaby Sanchez with the Miami Marlins and Adam Lind with the Toronto Blue Jays found themselves in the minors after struggles.

The prototypical Mets example: Right-hander Steve Trachsel, with his consent required because of his veteran status, went to Triple-A to reboot back in mid-May 2001 with an 8.24 ERA. He returned a better pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 20 starts that season after returning to Flushing.

One problem, though: What would the Mets do to plug first base while Davis rights himself?

Andrew Brown, who shifted from the outfield to first base last weekend with Triple-A Las Vegas, strained an oblique muscle Sunday, removing him from consideration. Josh Satin has since returned to manning first base over Zach Lutz with the Pacific Coast League club, and Satin is not on the 40-man roster.

On the major league team, moving Duda or Daniel Murphy to first base might not make a ton of sense for a relatively short Davis absence because it might disrupt their progress at their adopted positions. Which might leave Justin Turner among the few viable options. Turner happens to be 2-for-his-past-22.

"Honestly, I'm never, 'Why me?'" Davis said after Wednesday's game, as he analytically broke down his latest miscue at first base. "It is what it is. … if my teammates weren't behind me, it would be the worst thing in the world. I'd probably be at Triple-A already if my teammates didn't have confidence and want me to be here. They're a huge part of why I come in every day with a positive attitude and try to work and help them.

"I'm hard on myself anyway, because I want to do well and I know I'm a good baseball player. Sometimes in this game it's not very easy. You can't get down. You've got to keep grinding it out."

Said Wright: "There are certain guys, I guess, you root extra hard for. Ike's at the top of that list -- the type of teammate that he's been through this whole stretch. It's very easy to pull your hair out and mope around and hang your head. And he's been the opposite. He's rooted on his teammates. He's done everything he can to help this team. It's tough to watch, especially with how hard I know the guys are rooting for him to break out of this. It's one of those stretches that you wish on nobody."