Mets LF Bay believes 2 subpar years behind him now

Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets following an All-Star

2009 season in Boston that was also one of the best of his

career.

Two years and a $66 million investment later, Mets management is

still waiting to see if he’ll ever display that kind of talent in

Queens.

After posting 20 or more home runs in six of his first seven

major league seasons – including four with 30-plus – concussion,

rib and shoulder issues culminated in Bay hitting just 18 total

homers the past two years for the Mets.

But after a summer of virtual training isolation spent hitting

off a ”tee-like contraption” and concentrating on the basics, Bay

said Thursday he’s hopeful people will get to see the player he

knows he can be.

”I’m trying to approach (the season) like any other one,” he

said. ”The first year I came in, I was kind of the new guy and

then last year, coming off the concussion, I’m just trying to get

back to it, and I did it this offseason. Not really trying to work

on anything new. But just trying to do what I’ve always done.

That’s the way I’m gonna approach it, regardless of what’s happened

in the past.”

There’s no question that a lot could be riding on Bay making a

significant improvement with the Mets doing very little in the way

personnel tweaking this offseason.

The Mets have about half of their payroll this year promised to

Bay, pitcher Johan Santana and third baseman David Wright. So

another year of subpar production could bring about wholesale

change.

Those aren’t sentiments lost on Bay.

”I think everybody knows we have some work to do – no

question,” Bay said. ”I don’t think anybody (in the clubhouse)

thinks any differently. … Are we the No. 1 favorite for the

division? Probably not. But I don’t think it’s out of the realm of

truth that we can be pretty good.

”It’s gonna take a lot of guys bouncing back and there’s

something definitely everybody can do to be better. And we’re gonna

need that.”

Aside from the injuries, another thing that has slowed Bay’s

production with the Mets, he said, was tinkering with his batting

stance last season.

The leftfielder acknowledges now that when he hit slumps he

often fought with himself to revert back to his old mechanics,

which in turn only exacerbated the problems.

Still, Mets manager Terry Collins said there weren’t any moments

while Bay slumped that he was questioning whether he was the right

guy to be starting.

”No, I knew he was the best guy. I knew he was the guy to

play,” Collins said. ”And you handle streaks when somebody on

your bench is hot and you think he should be playing. But in the

long run, this guy’s numbers speak for themselves.

”He’s anxious to get going and he feels good, he likes the

club. So I think Jason Bay is gonna be Jason Bay.”

Collins said there were several times that Mets hitting coach

Dave Hudgens mentioned that there were too many changes to Bay’s

stance and they won’t do the same tweaking this time around.

He said he plans to have Bay hit in the No. 5 slot behind David

Wright and Ike Davis.

Also, while Bay believes substantial offseason dimension changes

at Citi Field that will pull in the right centerfield fence in 17

feet in one location won’t have a huge effect on him, Collins

disagrees.

”I think certainly one thing the changes in our ball park is

gonna help is the mental outlook on is `Hey, I can hit some home

runs here’ if you put a good swing on the ball,” Collins said.

”In Pittsburgh he hit a lot of balls to right centerfield for

homers. And we all know he can pull. Again, in our park if we go

back, two of the home runs he hit at Citi Field that were long he

hit to right centerfield. Now, it’s even more attainable.”

Bay isn’t against the idea of hitting more balls to the opposite

field. He wants there to be balance, though.

”I can hit the ball the other way, but it’s not my bread and

butter,” he said. ”…That’s gonna be my primary focus for the

most part is being set up to do that, and with that, there’s a

little give and take. I think at one point I was trying to be

perfect and hit everything, every pitch in every spot the right way

and I wasn’t hitting anything.

”You see there’s some pitches you aren’t going to be able to

get to, but that’s everybody. … You end up trying to be too

perfect.”

In the end, Bay said he hopes simplicity will reign in his

approach to this season.

That means not second-guessing himself and letting the rest take

care of itself.

”I know what works,” he said. ”It’s just a matter of trusting

it. We’ll see when we get there. But I think I can do it.”

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at

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