First base an issue for Phillies, Mets after rainout

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- As they wrap up their respective seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets have questions at first base to explore in very different ways.

The Phillies are trying to see just how much star Ryan Howard can look like the player he was before tearing his Achilles. The Mets are mixing and matching to discover exactly what they have in their young players, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Howard started his season on July 6 and has hit just .225 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 62 games this season.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel acknowledged after the teams' game was rained out Tuesday that he would consider shutting Howard down for the season if his team gets eliminated from the second wild card race.

"I think he needs at-bats, but if it gets to the point it's not helping him ..." Manuel said. "I could (pull him back). We'll see."

Howard has especially struggled in September, with just 11 hits in 61 at-bats (.180) and no homers. He's also fallen off against lefties overall, batting just .163 with three homers and 80 RBIs in 80 at-bats.

The Phillies, though, still have something to play for at the moment, as they stood 3 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot entering Tuesday's games.

The Mets are once again trying to figure out their future, which is why they've given Duda some time at his more natural positions of left field and first base down the stretch.

A report surfaced Thursday that indicated the Mets might be more open to trading Davis and giving Duda a shot at first base. It also said the team had some off-the-field questions about Davis, but manager Terry Collins strongly denied those issues.

The report on ESPN New York cited a baseball source as saying the Mets might trade Davis in the offseason to open space for Duda at first if it would help them upgrade other areas of the team.

The report also indicated the Mets were "disappointed with Davis' unwillingness to make changes based on coaching advice" and that the team is worried he stays out too late after games. That portion of the report, however, was not directly attributed to any sources.

While Collins said any player in the Mets' locker room could be traded, he strongly denied any issues with Davis among coaches or questions about him staying out too late.

Collins said no one, from coaches to himself to front office staff, "has ever brought up a problem with Ike Davis." Collins pointed to Davis playing in 141 games and battling a case of Valley Fever earlier this season as examples of things he couldn't have done if he had been partying too much.

While the Mets demoted Duda at the end of July before bringing him back up a month later, they stuck with Davis during a slump that consumed the first several months of this season. Collins said there were "15 guys" waiting to find out whether Davis would be demoted during that time, as an example of his teammates' appreciation for him.

As for potential conflicts with coaches, Collins said, "there's not a guy in this locker room who hasn't had a disagreement," but that Davis did not stand out as being uncoachable.

"I just want to make sure everyone understands we're behind Ike Davis 100 percent," Collins said. "He shows up and plays."

Davis, who has recovered after his dismal start to hit .223 with 27 homers and 81 RBIs, said he didn't understand the vague accusations or the timing of them.

"I don't really have an answer for that, because it has never been an issue," he said. "I've never done anything wrong. I show up to the field and play every day. I really don't know where it's coming from. ... I don't know if it's a cheap shot, it's falsely accused, I guess.

"You think that would have come out when I was hitting a hundred with no home runs and no RBIs," he added. "But since then I have done better; now it's coming out, it's kind of weird, it doesn't make sense."

NOTES: The Mets will start Matt Harvey in his final start of the season Wednesday, and Jeremy Hefner will pitch in Thursday's makeup game against the Phillies, at 7:10 p.m. Had the game been played through rain Tuesday, Collins said he would have started Hefner because he didn't want Harvey to have his final outing possibly halted by rain after a couple of innings. ... The Phillies will start Cole Hamels on Wednesday, and Tuesday's scheduled starter, Tyler Cloyd, will pitch Thursday.
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