Ike Davis off to a much better start this year

Mets infielder Ike Davis plays catch during spring

Mets infielder Ike Davis plays catch during spring training baseball in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Hey, Ike Davis, do you have any idea what your batting average is so far?

"No," Davis said Thursday morning. "You could imagine it's in the threes."

Going into Thursday's game against the Tigers, it was .400.

"Yeah!" Davis exclaimed.

After Davis went 0-for-3 in the Mets' 9-1 loss, his average dropped all the way to .357. The Mets' cleanup hitter and first baseman hasn't hit for power yet -- one home run in 28 at-bats -- but he is healthy and happy and looking forward to a monster season.

Or at least one in which he is not "terrible" -- his word -- for the season's first two months.

Davis, 25, had a miserable start to 2012. He was coming off an injury-wrecked 2011 and in spring training, he had to deal with a lung ailment (Valley fever) that sapped his strength.

Davis was batting .158 as late as June 8. Manager Terry Collins had to reassure him that he was not going to be sent to Triple-A.

"Yeah, it bothered me," Davis said. "That's my job and I was terrible at it. When you're a professional athlete, you're a really competitive person. You don't get here by not being competitive. When you don't do well and people just continuously beat you every day, it's definitely an experience and it's not fun. That's what was happening for two months: 'You're the worst baseball player in the league.' That's not a good feeling.

"Doubt was huge. I doubted myself. I knew I was good enough to get out of it. I just didn't know how long it was going to take. I thought it was going to be a week's slump. That's what usually happens. Week, week and a half. Suddenly, it's a month and you're like, 'Am I going to get out of this thing?' I knew I could play better because I had done it previously. And I knew that eventually something would happen. I just didn't want to wait until the last month of the season. I started playing better. It was a learning experience, for sure."

The organization's patience paid off: Davis finished the season with a .227 average, 32 home runs and 90 RBIs. In the second half, he hit .255 with 20 home runs and 45 RBIs.

Double those second-half numbers, add in some more walks and increase his effectiveness against lefthanded pitchers, and the Mets will have an All-Star-caliber first baseman in 2013 for the reasonable price of $3.13 million.

"I feel fine," Davis said. "Obviously, I only have one home run, so I'd like to hit a couple more of those. I'm not going to hit .400 for the year, I don't think. Hopefully I will, but there's a good chance that won't happen.

"I'm making contact. I'm not striking out as much [four times]. Obviously, it's spring training, but I feel comfortable. I'm seeing the ball well. I'm not in a panic up there. I'm getting cheap hits, which helps your average. I'm hitting some balls, too, which helps.

"Am I going to hit .380 this year because I feel better? Probably not. I have a better chance at playing better and not coming out with such a horrific start."

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