What's Next for Jason Bay? Maybe Batting 2nd Behind Jose Reyes for New York Mets

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IMay 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets is congratulated by Jason Bay #44 after scoring in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 28, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Jason Bay has cooled off considerably after starting the season batting 9-for-23 with hits in his first six games for the New York Mets.

The left fielder was batting .218 with two homers and six RBI in 21 games entering Wednesday's game at home to the Washington Nationals, and he had just five extra-base hits in 90 trips to the plate.

Bay has four hits over his last nine games, and his last multi-hit outing came on May 6, when he went 2-for-4 in the first of a three-game set against the Dodgers.

With Ike Davis and David Wright now on the disabled list, players like Bay need to step up more than ever before to keep this team afloat offensively. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened just yet, but a change could be on its way in Queens.

"I'm going to try something...to get him some protection," Mets manager Terry Collins said before Wednesday's game. "There is no question about it.

"We're going to make a couple changes to the lineup and see if that works."

Collins said it was "conceivable" that Bay will start batting in the No. 2 hole, in front of Carlos Beltran and behind Jose Reyes in the lineup. That protects Bay and gives Beltran another big bat in front of him while Wright is out of action. Now all he has to do is ask Bay if he's OK with the move.

Collins said he wants Bay to play through his slump, rather than give him rest.

He added, "We talked the other day and I told him that we're going to run him out there and that you're going to have to tell me when you need a blow because we need you in the lineup, especially right now."

It's going to be something new for Bay. In 1,038 games, Bay has only hit second in the lineup three times. He did this once last year with the Mets when Jose Reyes had a day off, and Bay hit in front of Wright.

Bay has always hit in the middle of the lineup, and he has always had protection. In Boston two years ago, it was Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew when he hit fifth or sixth. In Pittsburgh back in '07 it was Jose Bautista and Adam LaRoche when he batted third or fourth.

Bay has hit anywhere from fourth to sixth in the Mets lineup but predominantly fifth.

In his first 13 games of 2011, Bay batted fifth, behind Carlos Beltran and in front of Ike Davis. Then Beltran got a day off and Bay batted fourth, behind Wright and in front of Ronny Paulino, with Jerry Hairston Jr. playing right field and batting seventh.

The following two days, Collins flip-flopped Bay and Davis, meaning that Bay was hitting in the six-hole, protected first by Jason Pridie and then Paulino.

When Davis hit the DL with his ankle injury and Wright got a routine day off, Bay went back to batting fourth. The following day, he moved to fifth, each time with Daniel Murphy hitting behind him in the lineup. Bay is 4-for-17 without Ike Davis in the lineup, and it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that when Bay and Davis were hitting back-to-back, the team was doing well.

Since Davis' injury, Bay has alternated between hitting fourth and fifth, with either Murphy or Paulino behind him.

Now, with no disrespect to Ronny Paulino and his two RBI or Daniel Murphy and his .248 average, neither guy is giving Bay the help he needs.

Yes, Bay is slumping, and he knows it, but it doesn't help when pitchers can work around him. With essentially role players hitting behind him, it's no surprise Bay isn't getting much to hit.

This is where the suddenly scorching hot Carlos Beltran comes in. Beltran is hitting a blistering .369 at home and .313 (15-for-48) with five home runs, five doubles, 10 walks and 14 RBI over his last 14 games dating back to May 30.

His .750 slugging percentage in May was the third-best in the National League, and his 13 doubles for the season are tied for the NL lead. As Beltran goes, so does the rest of the team right now.

He told me that he is feeling less stress on his knee from not playing center field every day, and he said that is one of the reasons he is swinging the bat well.

"Playing right field there is less action than playing center field, where there is a lot of activity out there," Beltran said.

"You have to call every ball—left-center, right-center, in and out—so playing right field you maybe get just three or four balls a night. The stress on my legs is less than before, so maybe that contributes to how I am playing right now."

While Beltran is swinging a hot bat, the Mets can use it to help Bay too. Keep an eye on the lineup over the next series or two, because if Bay starts getting pitches to hit, his slump could quickly become a thing of the past.

Ash Marshall is a New York Mets Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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