PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Despite the bright sunshine at Tradition Field, the Mets still have their share of ghosts traveling with them to spring training after their World Series loss to the Royals. And Lucas Duda is no exception.
Duda spent the offseason thinking about his wild throw to the plate during Game 5, the one that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the tying run in the ninth inning of the Mets’ Series-ending 7-2, 12-inning loss at Citi Field. The first baseman even watched the play a few more times — Hosmer breaking for the plate after being looked back briefly by David Wright and Duda, after taking Wright’s throw, firing wildly past Travis d’Arnaud.
“That’s a throw I can make nine out of 10 times,” Duda said Thursday during a dugout news conference. “He was dead to rights. There’s no excuses. I threw the ball away. I’ll learn from it, grow from it and have it fuel me.”
Duda returns as the starting first baseman, with Wilmer Flores penciled in as the righthanded-hitting backup. The Mets also plan to experiment with d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki at the position.
For Duda, who hit 30 and 27 homers, respectively, the past two seasons, the biggest issue always has been staying consistent with that power stroke. And staying healthy, too. After playing 153 games the previous year, Duda was limited to 135 games last season because of a back injury that landed him on the disabled list. He also turned 30 this month, which to him sounds “weird to say,” but age is part of the equation for him now, too.
But the Mets have a deeper lineup than he’s been accustomed to, and in his view, an improved defense now that he’s playing alongside Neil Walker at second base and Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop.
“Up the middle, I think we upgraded,” Duda said. “Nothing against the people that were here — or still here.”
Duda, of course, was talking about Daniel Murphy, who signed with the Nationals during the offseason, and Flores, who is in more of a utility role. The retooled infield with an elite rotation and potent lineup has Duda, like many of his teammates, believing that the Mets can finish the job this season.
“I’d like to go back to the World Series and win it,” he said. “That’s our goal.”