PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The Mets did not envision this scenario, not as they spent the offseason shopping their first basemen, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. But for what they were being offered, one team official said recently, pulling the trigger on a trade would have been the same as granting the players their release.
So the Mets prepared for their only feasible alternative.
Davis and Duda arrived here as equals, thrust into a competition for the starting job at first base. And Friday, as the Mets dropped their Grapefruit League opener to the Nationals, 5-4, each proved eager to stake his claim.
Duda ripped a double after being robbed of an extra-base hit, delivering the two hardest-hit balls of the afternoon -- until Davis raised the stakes. When Nationals righthander Christian Garcia left a breaking ball over the plate, Davis was ready, sending a two-run homer into the rightfield berm.
"Certainly, it was a good day for them both," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I really think that they're bound and determined to make every game count."
Spring training success is not foreign to Davis, who hit .327 in Grapefruit League play a year ago, though he showed little power.
"I didn't drive the ball," said Davis, who homered only once in spring training last year. "If I can drive the ball and just keep making solid contact, that's the biggest thing."
Collins said Davis already looks "significantly different" at the plate than he did last season, when his troubles eventually landed him in Triple-A Las Vegas.
"He got so fly ball-crazy, he created such a huge uppercut, he created holes," Collins said. "Those holes aren't there right now."
Duda, who dropped weight at an offseason conditioning camp in Michigan, was equally impressive.
In the second, he ripped what would have been an extra-base hit had Nationals centerfielder Eury Perez not made a diving stab. In the fourth, he treated the crowd to another feat of strength, lining a ground-rule double that bounced over the fence in right-centerfield -- even though the barrel of his bat wound up near the screen behind home plate.
"The swing feels good,'' Duda said, "and hopefully I can build on it."
Both will get plenty of opportunities to impress before the Mets make a decision. Duda eventually will see some action in the outfield. But for now, Collins said Duda and Davis will alternate between first base and designated hitter.
The competition, the Mets insist, remains wide open. Neither wasted time getting started.
"It's really good to see," Collins said. "They came ready to play. They came ready to make the club. And it certainly was a good day for them both."
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