Mets' outfielder Jason Bay in the dugout during a game...

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

MILWAUKEE -- The Mets, still unable to decipher what is actually wrong with Jason Bay, did the only thing they could do before last night's game at Miller Park: Put him back on the bench.

Terry Collins said that the plan is for Bay to sit for two games in the hope that the break will help him solve his ongoing mechanical issues. But when asked if the benching could extend for a longer period, Collins suggested that was a possibility.

"It's not etched in stone," Collins said. "We're trying to do all the options we can give it."

Obviously, fixing Bay is a big priority. Not only is he relied on to be an integral part of the lineup's core, Bay is in the second season of a four-year, $66-million contract, and the Mets would like a significantly better return on that investment.

Bay is mired in an 0-for-23 slump, the longest of his career, and he's batting .207 with 39 strikeouts in 39 games. It's no longer a matter of his vanishing power -- Bay has two homers, his last on May 13. He is capable of little more these days than an endless loop of ground balls to the left side of the infield.

"I'm just going to go in the cage, just keep grinding, working on the same things that we've been doing," Bay said. "I don't think it's so much more about the work you're going to do, but just taking a couple days, trying to use that as a catalyst to get something going."

The timing of the decision was curious after Collins insisted before Wednesday night's game that he would practice patience with Bay. What he saw later that night must have changed his mind.

Bay was hit by a pitch and scored the Mets' first run on a balk, but he also went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. The second time he whiffed came during the Mets' eighth-inning rally, with two runners on, right before Ronny Paulino homered. While the even-tempered Bay rarely displays emotion, Collins could tell that the repeated failure was bothering him.

"He's infuriated by it," Collins said. "He never gets too high, never gets too down. But make no mistake about it, it's eating at him."

Knowing that, Collins called Bay into his office after Wednesday night's 7-6 loss to the Brewers and talked to him about the two-day breather. It wasn't the first conversation they've had on the subject.

This is the third time in 10 days that Collins has chosen to sit Bay; he even stuck with a decision to "rest" him on May 30 despite abruptly losing Jose Reyes that day for the start of his bereavement leave.

"It's not enjoyable," Bay said. "At the same time you're still part of a team and the team over the last few days has done pretty well. It does no good for me to sit around and pout about it. Just because I'm struggling doesn't mean that everyone else has got to deal with that, too."

Collins has tried to encourage Bay by pointing out some other notable players who were forced to deal with deep slumps in the first half of seasons, such as Carlos Delgado and David Ortiz. What is more troublesome for Bay, however, is that he's struggled at the plate since arriving in New York.

In 134 games with the Mets, Bay has batted .244 with a .367 slugging percentage. During that span, he has eight home runs and 58 RBIs with 130 strikeouts. Since he's shown no signs of pulling out of this tailspin, Bay was asked if he has any fear of this futility at the plate becoming permanent. In other words, could he be done at age 32?

"I don't think so," Bay said. "Once again, batting practice is batting practice. But it's one of those things that, I know it's there. You have good days and you have bad days. When you keep having bad days it's hard to remember the good ones. It's hard to get that feel back."