Lucas Duda was back in New York Friday night and heard the fans at Yankee Stadium. Those were the partisan Mets fans who were showing their pleasure that Duda was part of a trade Thursday night that sent him to Tampa Bay. There were also thank you signs for his decade of playing time with the Mets.
However, this was Yankee Stadium. Duda is a part of another pennant race and where he wants to be. The Mets are going in that other direction of rebuilding for next year and Duda was the first of an expected purge to go before the non waiver trade deadline.
“I’m very excited to be here,” he said again in the visitor’s clubhouse. “I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.” What awaits Duda is an opportunity to fill in at first base for the Rays and also contribute in the DH spot. He hits home runs, as do the Rays, third in the AL, and most of all Duda has an opportunity to be in the postseason a third straight year.
Every move to get better for the Mets is considered a win. A season of expectations has resulted in disappointment and Duda was a target. It was time to go and there will be more moves before the Monday deadline.
He scored the lone Rays’ run in the Yankees 6-1 win. It was a Yankee Stadium home run for Duda in the seventh inning, down the left field line. The slider was hit off Masahiro Tanaka, a pitch his new teammates could not handle as the Yankees righthander was almost perfect and struck out a career high 14.
The home run was number 18 overall, among the 17 he hit with the Mets. The Yankees had once expressed interest in acquiring Duda with their need for a first baseman but rare when the two New York teams do business when exchanging players.
“This is all business,” he said. “I heard about that. It’s tough, but that’s baseball.” The 31 year-old left handed hitter had his share of injuries and one of many that hurt the Mets in this their season of an injury ward at Citi Field.
He said, “You deal with injuries. You deal with not playing well and you deal with a whole combination of things.” Now, Duda is playing in a smaller market and if he gets in that home run groove, Tampa Bay has another potent bat that can get them to October.
“Definitely, he brings us more power in the lineup,” said Rays’ starter Chris Archer. There was that immediate comfort zone of adapting to a new environment for Duda, and how ironic the first home run with a new team came across town in the Bronx.
He was on the market, so this was expected. Duda was quickly in the record book as the 25th player in Tampa Bay history to homer in his debut with the club. Across the country, his former team was opening a four-game series in Seattle and Duda was expecting text messages.
Curtis Granderson, Wilmer Flores, and for Duda they were all good teammates during his tenure in New York and he wished them the best. He was the quiet and good guy in the Mets clubhouse.
“Playing for a contender is where you want to be this time of year,” he said. “I’m excited to be here, happy to be here. It takes a little weight off your shoulders to contribute with a home run in your first game. The Mets are first class. They treated me very well. That being said, I’m ready for a new chapter.”
However, it was trade that had to be made. The Mets got a pitcher in the deal as they regroup and start all over again. Duda started that new chapter Friday night in the Bronx and these new surroundings appear to be a perfect fit.
It’s a business and as he said. “It’s gonna be a fun next couple of months.”
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