After Thursday night’s come from behind win over the Marlins, Michael Cuddyer was asked whether his first impression of Lucas Duda is that of a guy who could be a dominant force. Cuddyer not only agreed with the assessment, but added, “He could be a monster.” Cuddyer is just one of many singing the praises of Duda at the start of this season, but one person who isn’t getting caught up in all of the excitement is the big man himself.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it,” Duda said. “We’re 10 games in. There’s still 150 to go. I’m going to continue to work hard, keep my head down, and see how it goes.”
While it may be prudent to realize that this 10 game sample isn’t enough to go on for full season predictions, it’s gone pretty well so far for the Mets first baseman. Duda’s 2 strike RBI single to left center off Marlins lefty reliever Mike Dunn to give the Mets the lead for good in Thursday night’s win was his 3rd hit of the night. It bumped his average up to .395 on the young season, with 6 of his 8 RBI coming in the last 3 games, all multi-extra base hit efforts. His manager Terry Collins sees these numbers as the results of the right approach.
“One of things that I think we’re seeing is guys are taking what they’re given,” Collins said. “In the case of Lucas, it’s ‘Hey look I just want to put the ball in play [in RBI situations].’ He’s not looking to get a homer; he’s looking to get a single.”
“I’m just trying to get that run in,” Duda said when talking about his go-ahead RBI, which also came on the 7th pitch of the at-bat. Not wanting to give himself too much credit, he added, “I’m not exactly laying out missiles but I’m finding some outfield grass and they’re legal here, I’ll take any hit I can get.”
Duda spoke about that play in the 7th inning as if he hit a blooper that somehow dropped into the outfield. As you can see here, it’s a more impressive knock than he’d let you believe. It’s not the 400 foot bomb we saw from Duda 30 times a season ago, but it was a clutch line drive to bring home a run in the Mets’ third comeback of the night.
Duda used the “missiles” line twice when speaking to reporters after the game, while reminding the media several times that it’s still early and that not too much should be made of his early success. However, Cuddyer sees no reason that the hot start can’t be a source of pride for Duda.
“Why wouldn’t you be [confident], you’re hitting .400 right now you should be confident,” says Cuddyer, a former batting champion. “That last at bat where he was able to get that run in displays that [confidence]. He’s got a tough lefty, a tough count, fights some balls off, and then [to be] able to dump one out there in the outfield to bring in a run was huge.”
Some had speculated that the right-handed hitting Cuddyer might get most of the starts at first base to form a platoon with the lefty Duda. But Duda’s RBI single off of Dunn made him 4 for 8 on the season against lefties, an area he showed improvement in last year as well. But in typical Duda fashion, Lucas refuses to say the early success in those situations means much.
“I don’t really buy much into it,” says Duda when asked about his early success against left-handed pitching. “Like I said, we’re 10 games deep. If things are different we’d be talking about what’s going on [negatively against lefties]. 10 games in, I’ll continue to work hard and have fun.”
He may not have fun talking to the media, but he’ll have fun if he continues to hit the way he has to start 2015. Coming off a career year last year where he hit .253 with 30 homers and 92 RBI, Duda has put himself on a track to possibly become the next Mets superstar. Whether he’ll be able to admit it or not.