NY Times, The Mets have reassured first baseman Ike Davis that he will remain in the major leagues while he fights through a season-long hitting slump.
Five days after Manager Terry Collins said “nothing is etched in stone” regarding Davis’s position with the team, the two sat down before the team’s flight out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday to let him know there were no plans to send him to the minor leagues.
“We thought one of the things we’d do is say we believe in him,” Collins said Thursday before the Mets hosted the San Diego Padres. “Last night was just an opportunity for us to say, ‘Relax; you’re on the club.’”
Davis, 25, was hitting .159 with a .213 on-base percentage — both figures ranked second lowest in baseball among hitters eligible for the batting title — with only 9 extra-base hits and 15 runs batted in, to go with 44 strikeouts in 145 at-bats.
He has been dropped in the order, been given days off and reconfigured his stance multiple times, and still nothing has snapped him out of his malaise.
Collins said he hoped the recent show of faith would help him clear his head.
“This game’s all about confidence,” said Collins, who played Vinny Rottino instead of Davis at first base Thursday because a left-hander, Eric Stults, was starting for the Padres. “When you’re going through a slump like Ike is, when you lose that confidence, it wears on you.”
The Mets do not have many other options at first base and in the lineup. Three regular starters are on the disabled list, and Davis is not the only hitter currently struggling.
Outfielder Andres Torres was in the midst of a 1-for-28 stretch. Rottino, recalled from Class AAA on May 21, was 1 for 7 in four games this season.
Wednesday’s meeting was an indication that the team would give Davis additional slack to work through his issues even after Jason Bay returned from the disabled list. Bay began taking batting practice Wednesday, and Collins said he could start playing in rehabilitation games as a designated hitter early next week.
Collins also said Davis would not platoon, even though Rottino started on Thursday. “We told him he’s the first baseman,” Collins said. “He’ll be in there tomorrow.”
Davis said: “Obviously, they have confidence in me, they’re backing me, and they know I’m going to get through this. I’m going to be here awhile, and it’s up to me to start playing better.”
Collins said he spoke to Davis in Pittsburgh about thinking too much at the plate, specifically about trying too hard to hit balls to the opposite field.
“That’s not him,” Collins said. “He’s never done that. He’s been a guy that once in a while will hit some balls to left-center field, but he’s never hit the ball to left field. Here we are asking a guy to do something he’s not comfortable at. I think that goes against the purpose of what we’re trying to do.”
Davis hit .309 in Class AA and .364 in Class AAA, and he was batting .302 in 36 games with the Mets last season before being injured, so his offensive swan dive this season has been baffling. He had what was thought to be valley fever in spring training, but has insisted it is no longer affecting him. Collins has said as much, too.
A recent article by Bill Petti of FanGraphs.com examined the pitches Davis had been seeing and found that only 51 percent this season had been some type of fastball.
“There have been only 30 seasons between 2007 and 2011 where a hitter with more than 100 plate appearances saw a lower percentage of fastballs in a season than Ike this year,” Petti wrote.
Translation: Pitchers are serving Davis a startling amount of junk pitches, and he has not yet been able to adjust.
For now, Davis will keep working with the Mets’ hitting coach, Dave Hudgens, at the major league level, thankful for some peace of mind.
“Now I don’t have to talk about going down every day,” Davis said. “Obviously, it’s nice to get that out of the way and know that if I go 0 for 4 tomorrow, I’m not getting sent down.”