- Last Updated: 8:47 AM, April 14, 2012
- Posted: 12:51 AM, April 14, 2012
PHILADELPHIA — The Mets need to put David Wright on the disabled list to give his fractured right pinky time to heal. That means the fickle finger of fate is pointing directly at Jason Bay.
It’s now or never for Bay and he knows it.
“It’s a big time for me,’’ Bay told The Post last night after the left fielder finally came up with a big at-bat in the Mets’ 5-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Bay crushed a two-run home run to right-center in the first inning off Cliff Lee.
That was Bay’s first home run of the season, and only his 19th home run since signing a four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets in 2010.
This is the key. In that at-bat, Bay did not put himself in the hole by rushing his swing, which puts his body too far behind the ball and thus creates a late swing. It’s all a timing issue for Bay, not mechanical, and as a result, he insists there is hope to get back to the player he once was before he became a Met.
“When I’m late, which I’ve continuously been, that’s a result of being rushed,’’ Bay said. “It’s all about getting ready earlier and that’s what I am trying to do. I fell into a rut.’’
And he can’t get up.
“It’s there,’’ he said of the perfect swing and timing that he is searching for, “but it’s not natural like it once was. It’s something I have to work on every day. The good news is that I’ve put so much time into this so when I get it right, it will be easier to keep.’’
Last night’s home run not only was a good feeling for Bay, it offered something much more important to him — confidence.
With rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis splitting time in center field now, when Andres Torres comes back from his calf injury, which is still quite a ways away, Bay could become a platoon player if he doesn’t show more of what he showed last night.
Bay is never going to be super for the Mets, he just needs to get out of his hitting stupor.
Ike Davis (.043) is a mess. Lucas Duda (.120) is struggling, too, but they are young players who figure to go through ups and downs. Bay needs to produce. This is about being a respectable hitter now, not a $16 million a year hitter.
If Bay doesn’t show signs of a more timely swing over the next few weeks, you have to wonder how long Sandy Alderson & Co. will stick with Bay, a player they had no part in bringing to the Mets. If he does not produce, they will not allow his option to kick in for 2014.
Bay is a great teammate, but he has nearly passed the point of no return. Throughout the Mets’ first homestand, he was booed. With each out, the fans’ frustration grew louder. They have had enough of Bay not producing. Bay will not give in though.
A concussion limited him to 95 games his first Mets season. He has been a lost baseball soul. He has never been at home as a Met, has never relaxed at the plate and has not delivered. In those first two seasons he struck out 200 times over 792 at-bats. His on-base percentage last season was .329. His slugging percentage was a career-low .374. There is no way to defend those numbers. If not for the big contract, Bay would have been benched.
Going into the game he was hitting .158 with one RBI. Then he homered. He followed with two strikeouts and with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth, he hit a grounder to third for a force at home. He is batting .174.
But his first at-bat was a great at-bat. A few more of those on-time swings have to come over the next few weeks. Let the Bay Watch begin and look for the balanced swing.Follow @NYPostsports