Jason Bay was conspicuously absent from the Mets' lineup for Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals. Playing leftfield instead was pinch-hitter extraordinaire Jordany Valdespin, who went 1-for-4 from the No. 2 hole and is likely to start seeing more time against righthanded pitchers at Bay's expense.
"It's hard," Terry Collins said. "When we were playing good, you could have some patience with a guy that was struggling a little bit to get him some at-bats because other guys were picking him up. But right now, we're in a situation where we've got to keep our head above water. We've got to start winning some games."
Despite Bay's struggles, Collins insists that the jury is still out on whether he can contribute on a daily basis. Bay is hitting .182, but he's had only 99 at-bats, broken up by two different stints on the disabled list. Collins maintains that it takes at least 125 at-bats to make any kind of evaluation.
Collins planned to speak with Bay before the game about his playing time moving forward. Still, Bay is expected to start at least two of the four upcoming games in Arizona as the D-backs are using lefthanders Wade Miley for Thursday night's series opener and Joe Saunders in Sunday's finale.
Frank Francisco made his first rehab appearance for Double-A Binghamton and allowed three hits and one earned run in two-thirds of an inning. He threw 24 pitches, walking one with one strikeout. Francisco received a cortisone shot in his right knee Monday, but Collins is hopeful that he can rejoin the team next week.
After the loss, the Mets optioned Mike Nickeas to Triple-A Buffalo and recalled catcher Rob Johnson, who will join the Mets for the series in Arizona. Despite Nickeas' offensive woes -- he was hitting .168 -- the move was also a nod to Johnson's close working relationship with Matt Harvey, who will make his major-league debut Thursday night against the D-backs.
Mike Baxter could rejoin the team as soon as Monday in San Francisco if he continues to make progress in his rehab. Baxter, who is at Buffalo, was batting .333 (11-for-33) with three doubles and six RBIs. "I want to make sure that his arm strength is back," Collins said . . . Johan Santana (ankle) will work with the Mets' strength and conditioning coach while the team is on the road and Collins is hopeful that he can return to the rotation "around Aug. 8 or 9."