PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Two of the biggest early stories of spring training collided Tuesday when Lucas Duda stepped in to face Matt Harvey for live batting practice. The showdown was anticlimactic, however, as Duda was just tracking pitches and didn’t swing. But that didn’t stop Harvey from nailing him on the leg with a fastball as the crowd of onlookers emitted a collective “ouch.”
“He was throwing good, so it hurt a little bit,” Duda said. “It’s a baseball.”
The training exercise is not one of the hitters’ favorites, especially this early, when pitchers can still be struggling with command.
“I’ve had guys in the past that wouldn’t get in a cage against a pitcher until they were ready,” Terry Collins said. “That’s one of the reasons. They don’t want to get drilled.”
When asked if Duda was OK, the manager chuckled. “It’s like throwing against a wall,” he said.
Collins indicated that four of the bullpen spots are secure with Frank Francisco at closer, preceded by Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Tim Byrdak.
That leaves another two spots open, with Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta among the top incumbents. There’s still a long way to go, obviously, but the competition begins Friday with the first intrasquad game.
“I want to see some consistency,” Collins said. “From the get-go, I want to see some good outings. I think that’s important.”
The Mets initially sent out a schedule that had the major leaguers playing the STEP program, which consists of the top non-camp prospects. But Collins shot down that idea.
“We have to get our guys ready,” the manager said. “No disrespect to the kids over there, but there’s a number of decisions to be made in this camp and I’m not going to limit the number of times I’m going to see these guys.”...Harvey and Dillon Gee will face off in the first intrasquad game Friday. Jeurys Familia, the other top prospect in that game, will follow Gee. Francisco will make his debut.