Friday, September 30, 2022

Matt den Dekker, Scott Hairston are two of the good guys in the Mets’ near-crisis


It was a few hours after their 8-5 win over the Phillies on Friday night when the Mets saw a series of changes tick into place at Citi Field, including a lineup.

Matt den Dekker, who hit only .105 in 28 games for the Mets, got the start for the first time in a week and stayed in the lineup. Scott Hairston, who had not played in a week, made an appearance off the bench and got the start. Michael Conforto, who was 9-for-27 in his last seven games, took Michael Cuddyer’s place in center field. Lucas Duda was also in the lineup, hitting ninth for the first time since June 8.

And Terry Collins’ first public comments of his postgame press conference did not focus on his team’s recent troubles at the plate. It was, more, on the players who had stayed in the dugout rather than attempting to play through the pain.

Duda’s pinch-hit single drove in a run in the eighth inning on Friday, extending the Mets’ lead, but he would exit with another injury after landing awkwardly on the left side of his lower back running to first base in the bottom of the inning. Duda was limping from the dugout to the clubhouse on crutches after the game, the team announcing that he suffered a strained right hamstring.

“From what we’ve been told he’s going to be able to go on the DL,” Collins said. “He was in more pain than he was the last time he got hurt.”

There are also questions about how much more Duda can take after his recent run of back pain, which led him to play just 17 games in the second half of last season.

“I don’t know if it’s Mike, just with his experience with his back, or him trying to get back,” Collins said. “But it’s kind of strange. In general, he looked awfully good when he was getting back.”

Asked if Duda was going to put the injured hamstrings of last season behind him, he said, “I’m really hoping so. He said he’s not that tired. That was the thing he was concerned about and rightfully so, coming off last year with back issues and through spring training this year. He said he’s not feeling the wear and tear, so hopefully that will carry into the rest of the year.”

The back issues continue to haunt Duda, who missed 41 games last season and then 14 games this season before getting off to a hot start. He is hitting .258 this season and will now miss four to six weeks, with his usual designated hitter spot taken by den Dekker.

“He’s an important guy for us,” Collins said. “We put the bat in his hands. He can hit for average, drive in runs, he’s a little bit of a sparkplug. When he comes up, it gets everybody into the game.”

“It’s something that the Mets organization obviously can’t afford to have happen again,” Collins added. “If he has to go on the DL, which is kind of what you have to look at.”

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