Will slumping Bay be batting 2nd?

Mets' outfielder Jason Bay in the dugout during

Mets' outfielder Jason Bay in the dugout during a game at Citi Field. (May 18, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

With some money players unavailable, and once-dangerous slugger Jason Bay hitting only a buck-sixty-seven the last 11 games, Mets manager Terry Collins figuratively is digging around in sofa cushions and old jackets for loose change.

"We're going to make a couple of tweaks to the lineup in the next couple of days," Collins said, "and see if that works."

Among the possibilities is moving Bay, whose first-inning RBI sacrifice fly last night couldn't keep his average from dipping to .213 on an 0-for-2 night, from the cleanup spot to second in the batting order, between the two most proficient of the team's healthy hitters, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.

"It's conceivable," Collins said. "But I haven't talked to [Bay] about it yet . . . "

Bay's reaction, when the contemplated scheme was relayed to him, was something along the lines of a grunt. "Huh," he said, after last night's 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.

The move, he said, would "make no difference, it really doesn't. You know, I've actually hit there before. But fourth to fifth to sixth to second, I mean, you're not really changing your approach as to where you're hitting. Unless maybe you're leading off, and if they put me there, we've got real problems. We've got bigger problems."

Bay has acknowledged that the slump "wears on you," but assured that he ultimately will be able to pay his offensive debts.

"It's not like I'm asking myself to do something I've never done," he said. "It's a matter of keep busting your butt and hope that things will happen. I'm not going to base my entire year on 75 at bats" -- 80 now, with 17 hits.

While Mets fans long ago grew impatient with Bay for not instantly reproducing the showy numbers (36 homers, 119 RBIs) he posted for Boston in 2009, finishing with just six and 49 last year, Collins insisted Bay eventually will find his old level: That is, the 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBIs in four of his nine big-league seasons.

If Bay were to hit second, sandwiched between Reyes, whose major league-leading stolen-base total forces pitchers to throw fastballs to the No. 2 batter, and Beltran, tied with Reyes for the most doubles in the majors, that might pry loose a better menu of hit-able pitches for Bay.

The idea of providing Bay more protection in the batting order has been made more urgent by the number of holes punched in the Mets' roster by their injury plague this season. "But the guy's trying to get himself going again," Collins said, "so I'm not throwing something at him right now."

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