<
>

Neil Walker looks all right against left-handed pitching as Mets' power awakens

Neil Walker is showing right-handed power early in 2016, something that's been in limited supply during his major league career. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA -- Count manager Terry Collins among those caught off guard by Neil Walker's power surge from the right side of the plate since joining the New York Mets.

Walker twice homered against left-handed reliever Brett Oberholtzer in the Mets’ 11-1 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. That gave the switch-hitting Walker three homers from the right side of the plate as a Met, already matching a career high for a single season.

The three homers have come in 11 plate appearances. Walker had three homers in 640 plate appearances against southpaws over the previous five seasons combined.

“From all we heard, it’s a big surprise,” Collins said. “As we’ve talked about so many times, a lot of it is about confidence. Right now he has great confidence hitting right-handed.”

Said Walker: “In the minor leagues I had more power from the right side than I did the left side. Things just got away from me over the course of a lot of at-bats.”

Walker has noted that he has simplified things from the right side of the plate, including eliminating a toe tap that he utilizes while batting lefty.

Overall, Walker’s six homers are tied for the most ever by a first-year Met in the team’s opening 13 games of a season. John Buck also produced that long-ball output in 2013.

The Mets’ bats had been ultra-quiet the first week of the season, but things have picked up early in their three-city trip to Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Mets have 17 homers and have scored 33 runs in their past five games, which coincides with Michael Conforto moving from sixth to third in the lineup.

Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson all homered in addition to Walker during Tuesday’s rout.

Collins and Walker suggested that the bats awakening is partly due to a more normal schedule. It also helps to have somewhat warmer conditions. The Mets played only twice during the opening five days of the season.

“When it’s disrupted, it sounds like it shouldn’t make any difference, but it does,” Collins said about the schedule. “These guys are creatures of their routine. I knew that coming on the road trip -- the weather looked like it was going to be good -- we’d get in that routine.”

Collins has insisted that the Mets should be a home run-hitting team.

“It’s kind of the way our club has been built,” the manager said. “Our lineup right now, to be honest, we’ve got a lot of guys who can hit it over the fence. And there’s no easy guy in that lineup when you’re facing them.”