New York Mets' Jason Bay follows through with his swing...

New York Mets' Jason Bay follows through with his swing after connecting for an RBI-single against the Colorado Rockies. (April 13, 2010) Credit: AP

ST. LOUIS - No one needs to tell Jason Bay that he's not doing his job right now. With the Mets off to a 3-6 start before Friday night's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, Bay sees one of the main culprits every time he looks in the mirror.

That kind of responsibility comes with the package when you sign a four-year, $66-million contract, and Bay, the club's No. 4 hitter, knows that the pressure is building.

"It's nine games," Bay said Friday afternoon. "But it's the beginning of the season and everything gets overanalyzed because of that. Obviously, I didn't get off to the start that I wanted to and this is the way it is.

"If you're winning games, it's a little bit easier. When you're losing them, you take it a little bit harder. But I've played long enough and gone through enough ups and downs to know - whether as a team or personally - there's no reason to panic by any means."

With a single in the first inning Friday, Bay has hit safely in nine of their 10 games, but he had only two RBIs. He also was batting .167 (2-for-12) with runners in scoring position after striking out in the eighth with men on second and third Friday.

One of the most alarming numbers for Bay would appear to be a team-leading 14 strikeouts, often an indicator that a player is not quite right at the plate. But when that subject is brought up with Bay, he swats it away, almost as if he knew that particular pitch was coming.

"I struck out 162 times last year, so yeah, I strike out," Bay said. "That's just part of my game. When some guys aren't going well, they ground out. When I don't do well, I strike out. I'm not seeing the ball, and that's something that I've just learned to deal with.

"It's something I know is going to happen. I'm not going to let it negatively affect me as long, for me, as long as I'm doing the other things, chip in here and there until things turn around."

But with Bay slumping and the Mets batting .184 (16-for-87) with runners in scoring position, Jerry Manuel is finding it difficult to come up with a remedy. He talked earlier this week about moving Jose Reyes down to the No. 3 hole for the weekend series in St. Louis in an attempt to spur the offense, but he kept him in the leadoff spot Friday.

"I'm still going to reserve that a little bit until he feels he's comfortable, until he feels good about it," Manuel said. "I don't know if right now is the time."

Reyes is not making it any easier for Manuel, either. While in Colorado, Reyes repeatedly said he was "not ready" to make the switch, and the manager would prefer not to mess with his comeback from a hyperactive thyroid.

"I think maybe once he kind of grasps and understands that it's not really that different," Manuel said. "It's just a matter of us putting some things in place with the pieces that we have now. It's not something I say I won't do. I think we've had some people out there who just haven't picked him up like I'd like to see us do. If we start doing that, then that could become a moot point."

Manuel believes he could use either Angel Pagan or Gary Matthews Jr. in the leadoff spot. With Bay, however, Manuel doesn't think he has as many other options.

"We knew coming in that he would have some streaks," he said. "You got to ride it out."

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