Less than 24 hours after being traded, Lucas Duda found himself back in New York, and it didn’t take him long to show what made him a desirable commodity.
The power-hitting first baseman went 1-for-3 with a 409-foot home run into the second deck near the rightfield foul pole in the Rays’ 6-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.It was Duda’s 18th home run and one of only two hits the Rays managed against Masahiro Ta naka in eight innings.
“It’s like any other team,” Duda said about homering against the Yankees. “It was kind of weird being with the Mets for some time, you know. I’m excited to be here, happy to be here and ready to contribute.”
While flying in from San Diego, where the Mets played Thursday night, Duda had plenty of time to think about his 7 1⁄2-year tenure with his former team.
“I think you take some time to absorb what has happened and definitely appreciate where you’ve been,” said Duda, a seventh-round selection by the Mets in the 2007 draft who ranks seventh in franchise history with 125 home runs. “The Mets have been a first-class organization from top to bottom. They’ve treated me unbelievably well, and for that fact, I’m very thankful and blessed that I was able to spend the amount of time I did with them.
“That being said, I’m ready for a new chapter. I’m ready to be in the hunt and I’m excited, to say the least.”
Seven Mets in the Opening Day lineup are in their walk year, and Duda — who started at first base and batted cleanup Friday night — was the first of them to be traded as Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline nears. He was aware that his name was involved in trade discussions but tried not to think about “speculation.”
“It’s always a possibility for any player in any organization,” he said, “but it’s definitely been a whirlwind the last 24 hours and it’s part of baseball.”
Duda, who is batting .247, hit 30 home runs in 2014 and 27 in 2015 and played 760 games for the Mets.
“He can hit. You can tell,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s got a good approach, he has a quick bat. He went down and got the ball for the home run but just impressed with [his] presence when he walks up to the plate and how comfortable he is in the box.”
Duda, who repeatedly said he is excited about his new opportunity with the Rays — he’ll play first base or serve as the designated hitter — is thrilled about the chance to be with a playoff contender. The Rays have a 53-51 record and are 2 1⁄2 games out of a wild-card slot.
“It’s definitely a shot in the arm,” he said. “Playing for a contender is obviously where you want to be this time of year. The Rays have an excellent shot of making it to the playoffs and beyond, so I’m definitely glad to be a part of it.”