ATLANTA - Even as they watched his batting average sink below the Mendoza Line, the Mets harbored reservations about making significant changes to Ike Davis' swing. They worried that attempting so many fixes -- while he was still expected to produce -- would ultimately be counterproductive.
Instead, the Mets implemented a series of small tweaks, hoping it would be enough.
It wasn't, which is why the Mets have adopted a more drastic approach with Davis, who is working on a laundry list of changes during his stint at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Judging from the sheer amount of adjustments that Davis is trying to incorporate into his swing, his stay in the minor leagues may prove to be longer than the Mets had first anticipated.
"I don't think it's going to happen overnight," Mets manager Terry Collins said last night. "It's going to be a process of getting comfortable with what he's working on."
Since he was optioned down on June 10 -- when his batting average had dipped to .161 -- Davis has worked under the supervision of Las Vegas manager Wally Backman and hitting coach George Greer. Recently, roving hitting coordinator Lamar Johnson has also put in time with Davis, whom the Mets count as a core piece in their rebuilding project.
The biggest change involves reducing the hitch in Davis' swing, which scouts have long identified as a fatal flaw, and perhaps his biggest barrier toward achieving consistency.
"The whole timing of getting his hands in position -- it's got to get fixed," Collins said. "That's the biggest thing. When that happens, the rest of his swing is easy to adjust. Because that [hitch] has been a part of his swing for so long, that's the No. 1 area that he's got to correct, so it's going to be hard. That's a major part of his swing that's got to change."
But the Mets also have focused on the positioning of Davis' upper body during his swing, part of an effort to eliminate his tendency to lunge at pitches, another bad habit. They have even asked Davis to adjust the way he grips the bat, closer toward his fingertips as opposed to his palms.
Most of the changes are designed to increase Davis' ability to recognize pitches, another problem identified by the staff.
"They really like what he's doing," said Collins, who received a favorable report Thursday about Davis' progress. "He had three walks last night, they were very happy with the way he saw the ball, laid off some balls in the dirt. They say he's made real good strides."
Entering Thursday night, in nine games at Las Vegas, Davis is hitting .258 with no homers and four RBIs. But on Wednesday night, Davis finished 2-for-2 with three walks, which Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens took as an encouraging sign.
"I judge [progress] more on the walks almost more than on the hits because that means he's recognizing pitches, laying off the curveball down, laying off pitches," said Hudgens, who has been in daily contact with his counterpart, Greer. "Obviously, I know he can hit. I want him to recognize pitches so he lays off pitches he shouldn't swing at.
"That's one of the goals."
Yet even with his recent progress, the Mets may be without their first baseman for a while longer.
"Yeah," Collins said, when asked if has a target date for Davis' return. "Tomorrow. I'd like him back tomorrow -- if he's swinging good."