5/17/2013 7:39 P.M. ET
With runs at a premium, defense paramount
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- With two converted infielders playing the corner outfield positions and a new center fielder, the Mets understand how important their outfield defense is. Especially when their runs are at a premium.
"That's one of the reasons why [Rick Ankiel is] here," manager Terry Collins said of his newly acquired center fielder. "It allows us to platoon out there with he and [Juan Lagares], who are both very good defenders. When your right fielder now is a converted infielder and the left fielder is a converted infielder, you've got to be aggressive. You've got to take some of those fly balls. Hopefully, we put them in the right spots."
There are clearly still some growing pains, as in Thursday's win over the Cardinals, when Ankiel hesitated on a two-out hit by Pete Kozma that fell in for an RBI double. But Collins said that third-base coach Tim Teufel and first-base coach Tom Goodwin work on how to best configure converted infielders Lucas Duda and Jordany Valdespin when they're in left and right field, respectively, to give them all the help they can.
Collins expects Valdespin, who played 15 games in the infield last year but has been used primarily as an outfielder this season, to be tested this weekend at Wrigley Field, where right field can be a challenge.
"It all depends how that wind's blowing," Collins said. "If that baby's blowing out here, you can't play deep enough. But I give [Valdespin] a lot of credit -- he does take a lot of fly balls during batting practice, and if we have to, we'll get him out of there if we think that's going to pose a problem. But we've got to get a lead."
Entering Friday, the Mets had scored 165 runs, which ranks them 21st in the Majors. They've scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last 10 games and in 13 of their last 19, prompting Collins to field a lineup more suited to score than perhaps defend.
"When you're not scoring, you've got to get some offense in there," he said. "I hate to give up defense, but defense right now isn't helping us very much. We've got to find some ways to score some runs."
Collins hopes series in Chicago can turn Ike around
CHICAGO -- Manager Terry Collins tried one form of motivation with Ike Davis. If that doesn't take, he may have to resort to a more unpleasant form after the weekend.
Davis, the Mets' primary cleanup hitter, has hit just .160 this year, with a slugging percentage of .267. He has two doubles through 38 games and nine RBIs, breaking an 0-for-24 slump with a sixth-inning single in Friday's 3-2 win over the Cubs.
Collins hopes Davis can use the weekend series at Wrigley Field as a jumping-off point.
"We talk as a group in here all the time about confidence, and Ike is struggling," Collins said before the series opener. "There's no question about it. He's struggling, he knows it, and he's frustrated. He went and hit in the cage last night before he took a shower and got on a bus and came to Chicago because he's still trying to find it."
Collins has hoped that with Lucas Duda -- batting .212 with eight homers and 14 RBIs -- hitting behind him, Davis might get some better pitches to hit, particularly against right-handers. With the Mets facing two right-handed starters in Chicago, Collins said, "This weekend will be certainly a big series for him."
Collins said there's a chance, if Davis doesn't make any progress this weekend, that he could flip Duda and Davis in the fourth and fifth spots in the order.
Davis has received a vote of confidence from Collins, similar to the one he got last year, when the Mets pledged not to send him to the Minors after a slow April and May. He went on to drive in 24 runs in June, and he finished the year with 32 homers and 90 RBIs.
Said Collins: "My recollection was the day we talked to him and said, 'Hey, look, we're not going to send you down. We're going to keep you here, and we believe in you. We've got confidence in you.' But we were going to start platooning him. I think that might have taken all the pressure off him. There was so much talk he was going to get sent out that maybe he just relaxed and started swinging the bat a little bit better."
The "bad cop" routine and perhaps a threat of demotion might give Davis the spark he needs this year, but Collins isn't sure if he's ready to go down that road.
"I haven't used that approach yet," he said. "I did use the approach the other day and said, 'Look, we really believe in you, and you've got to start believing in yourself and got to go back and hit where you're supposed to hit.' I have not tried the other side yet, because he's got enough on his plate at the moment."
• The Mets are hoping that having Jordany Valdespin at the top of the lineup will help spark some offense this weekend.
"We're trying to score some runs, and we know if Valdy gets on, he has the ability to score, because he's fast, he's aggressive, and I want to give him another shot," manager Terry Collins said. "[Mike Baxter's] scuffling a little bit, and left-handers are hitting [Friday starter Edwin Jackson] hard, so I wanted to get another left-handed bat in there."
• The Mets entered Friday's game hitting .187 from the cleanup spot, second to last in the Majors.
"When [David Wright] gets up with guys on, he has that ability to drive them in, be it a single or a double," Collins said. "[Daniel Murphy] got on yesterday, and David got up and ... all of a sudden, bang, we've got two runs, which we haven't had.
"You've got to get [Ike Davis] and [Lucas Duda] going, because pretty soon, other teams are going to notice that, too, and pitch around [Wright]. We've got to start swinging better."
• Catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud -- New York's No. 1 overall prospect, per MLB.com -- will be limited to activity that does not place weight on his broken left foot for two more weeks after meeting with team doctor Struan Coleman on Friday in New York. d'Arnaud will remain in a walking boot.
• Top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler has been placed on the disabled list with mild inflammation in the AC joint in his right shoulder, but since it is only a seven-day stint and will be backdated to his most recent start, he will miss just one outing and is expected to pitch again on May 22.