Bay on light duty for now

With Ben Sheets on the mound for the Braves, Sunday night could have been an opportunity to get a struggling Jason Bay going.

With Ben Sheets on the mound for the Braves, Sunday night could have been an opportunity to get a struggling Jason Bay going.

Sheets recently returned to the mound after a two year hiatus. But in 30 career at-bats,  Bay has a .400 average against Sheets, and no Met has faced Sheets as many times as the Trail native.

Because of that, manager Terry Collins thought about inserting Bay into the lineup. But just days after the team announced that their expensive outfielder (in the midst of a four-year, $66-million contract) would become a platoon player, Collins decided to go with youth over experience, starting Jordany Valdespin in left field.

“I just thought I wanted to put Valdespin in there and see what he could do,” Collins told ESPN New York. “We’re trying to really get a better feel for where he needs to play and what kind of a player he’s going to be, so I wanted to get him in there against Sheets.”

Valdespin went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run as the Mets squeeked out a 6-5 victory.

The Mets announced last week that the left fielder Jason Bay will become a platoon player, but general manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets have no plans to swallow the final guaranteed season of his four-year, $66 million contract.

“Certainly, there are times when it is appropriate to eat a contract,” Alderson said. “There are other times when it is not. Jason Bay is not going anywhere, nor is his contract.”

Bay will not be going out to the field as often. Alderson said the right-handed hitting Bay will predominately play against left-handed pitching the rest of the way. Manager Terry Collins later confirmed that Bay will be sitting against most righties as the left-handed hitting Jordany Valdespin and Mike Baxter will receive more playing time.

“If I had a better leg to stand on, I could say something,” Bay said after going 1-for-4 in a 4-2 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field last week. “But, as of right, now, I don’t. I don’t want to be a distraction. I want to go out there and help out anyway I can. That is kind of the position that I’m in.”

Bay, who turns 34, is due to make $16 million next season. If he were to have 600 at-bats in 2013, his contract calls for $17 million in 2014. The most at-bats Bay has had in a season as a Met is 444 last year. If Bay doesn’t return in 2014, the Mets would owe him a $3 million buyout so, essentially, there is $19 million that the Mets would have to swallow if they didn’t bring back Bay next season.

Entering Tuesday’s game, in which he was due to start against lefty Wade LeBlanc, Bay was hitting .154 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 130 at-bats. This season he has suffered a concussion and a fractured rib, which have limited him to 40 games.

Room to improve

Collins said that the injuries have derailed the Mets because of their lack of depth. But he admitted that the demise of two key early contributors has only compounded the team’s issues.

Outfielders Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis each have been demoted in recent weeks. He said that both must improve for the Mets to be successful next season.