All eyes turn toward Lucas Duda now . . . after one last look at Ike

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Mets' Lucas Duda, center, celebrates his home run

Mets' Lucas Duda, center, celebrates his home run with teammates during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Jae C. Hong

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.

We thought that trading Ike Davis to the Pirates would put an end to the first-base sideshow for the Mets, or at the very least, quiet some of the drama involving that corner of the infield.

Sandy Alderson probably did, too. The good karma alone in shipping Davis to a contending club had to be worth something. Not to mention saving roughly $3.1 million in salary.

So Lucas Duda isn't Keith Hernandez. The Mets could use one fewer headache, and Terry Collins had to be relieved to no longer be badgered on a daily basis about the Davis / Duda rotation at first base, right?

Collins, now in his fourth season managing the Mets, wasn't buying that angle. He knows us too well.

"Well, I'm not done," Collins said before last night's game. "I mean, he's going to be 1-for-15 and Ike's going to have eight homers and you're going to want to know why we made the trade. I'm ready for those, too. Believe me."

The questions might start earlier than even Collins feared. Davis made his first start Saturday night for the Pirates, batting sixth and playing first base.

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In his first at-bat, Davis slapped a 1-and-2 pitch just inside the leftfield foul line for a double. Not 10 minutes later, Duda ripped a line drive into the right-centerfield gap for a double of his own and advanced to third on B.J. Upton's error. But Duda ran into an out when he tried to score on Travis d'Arnaud's grounder to short.

The next time up, Davis drew a full-count walk. Duda bounced out to first base. And so it went. The spring-training competition that was derailed by injuries resumed, played out between PNC Park and Citi Field. But this time, it was only for our amusement.

And you wonder why it took the Mets nearly five months to finally trade him. Obviously, they don't want to be haunted by Davis, who is less than two years removed from his 32-homer season and there's no guarantee that won't happen again for Pittsburgh.

If it does, the Mets will be reminded about Davis. That's the nature of this business, and being second-guessed comes with the territory. But what's done is done. The Mets finally decided on a course of action and now must be prepared to live with the fallout, a big part of which includes Duda as the everyday first baseman.

Davis deserves credit for exiting like a pro. It's not easy fighting with a friend for a job, and losing is worse. But he mostly kept that frustration in check after Opening Day, and made sure to talk to reporters Friday night before leaving.

In our estimation, 90 percent of players forced into the same spot would have bolted without a word.

"I've made my childhood dreams come true playing in the big leagues here," Davis said. "But you know, it's just a steppingstone and it happens to a lot of people, getting traded."

Pittsburgh seems to be the ideal situation for Davis. Duda's reaction -- to no one's surprise -- was tougher to decipher. Here was Duda, freed of the daily buzzing in his ear about first base, and he refused to show a trace of relief. Was Duda even bothered by it?

"No, not really," Duda deadpanned. "I wish him the best. I know it's going to work out for him."

It happened quickly. Most players look strange in a new uniform, but the Pirates home whites seemed to fit Davis perfectly. But the Mets can't worry about Davis doing damage for another team. And he shouldn't be their concern again until the Pirates visit Citi Field on May 26.

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This is all about Duda now, and he came within 10 feet of being the hero Saturday night in the eighth inning when a potential three-run homer died at the rightfield warning track instead. But this was Flushing, not Hollywood. And it doesn't have to happen overnight for Duda. Just as long as it does.

"He's got to go produce," Collins said. "He's our guy."

Your move, Lucas.

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