Mets Jason Bay gets ready for live batting practice during...

Mets Jason Bay gets ready for live batting practice during spring training at Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 27, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Early Friday morning, after two busloads of Mets left for Disney World, Jason Bay sat down at a clubhouse table with a plate of egg whites and bacon. A few minutes later, hitting coach Dave Hudgens pulled up a chair across from him.

"So," Hudgens said, "what do you want to do today?"

Nothing? Everything? How is Bay supposed to answer that?

At the end of last season, Bay and Hudgens came to the conclusion that it was best to undo two year's worth of tinkering. Scrap it all. Swing away and see what happens.

Encouraged by those results, or at least the feel of what his simplified mechanics could provide, Bay tried to maintain that approach during the offseason and showed up in Port St. Lucie with the same mind-set. But at this point, it's difficult to tell if Bay truly has turned a corner, and even he won't really know until the Mets get deeper into March.

In three games, Bay has walked three times in eight plate appearances and is hitless with two strikeouts. Taking walks during the regular season is a good thing, obviously. But for Bay, at this point, they can be a source of frustration.

"It's tough when you're trying to work on things and people are trying to get you out," Bay said. "It's not batting practice. I think for right now, it's just about getting used to game speed -- getting used to seeing 95 and getting your timing down. Trusting what you do in the cage and not trying to think too much out there."

Bay has an easygoing way about him. But given his struggles during the first two seasons of a four-year, $66-million contract, his patience eventually could reach an expiration date.

The other day, Bay popped up a first pitch and quickly heard from Hudgens.

"You kind of ambushed me with that first-pitch swing," Hudgens told him.

Bay replied, "Walks are great and all, but I've got to start working here."

recommended readingAll-Long Island baseball history

"Good point," Hudgens said.

Finding that balance is a challenge for Bay, whose downfall, like many other players, has been chasing breaking pitches outside the strike zone. That's a product of impatience and quickly can leave him behind in the count, but Bay's greater concern is making solid contact rather than rolling over hittable pitches, as he did last season. Success at that is a product of timing, and Bay is still in the midst of that process.

"You have certain expectations," he said. "Everybody wants to see results. But there's a lot more that goes into it. You don't see a baseball coming at you for five months and then it takes a week or two to catch back up to it again. But there's no certain time when you're able to just flip the switch and go."

The good news? After seeing David Wright sidelined by a sore rib cage, and Lucas Duda miss Friday's road trip with a stiff back, Bay is spending more time in the batting cage than wearing heat wraps.

"Health-wise, I feel fine," Bay said, knocking on the wood frame of his locker. "I'm good there. On March 9, that's probably the biggest concern, just staying out of the training room."

Notes & quotes: Matt Harvey, who called meeting Sandy Koufax on Thursday "surreal," evidently benefited from that brush with greatness. He pitched two perfect innings Friday in the Mets' 5-3 victory over the Braves in Orlando. Harvey struck out one in relief of Dillon Gee, who allowed two runs and five hits in three innings. Matt den Dekker's two-run triple snapped a tie at 3 in the eighth . . . Duda was scratched from Friday's game because of a stiff back, sparing him the two-hour bus ride, but he is confident he can make Saturday's 90-minute trip to Viera. "It's not a big deal at all," Duda said . . . The Mets are considering a minor-league deal for lefthander C.J. Nitkowski, who auditioned Thursday. Nitkowski said the Mets are his top choice, so he could be aboard soon.

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME