NEW YORK -- The platoon is on.
Manager Terry Collins started left-handed hitters Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin in the corner outfield spots on Wednesday, choosing to sit Jason Bay after the right-handed-hitting left fielder started in 17 of 21 games since returning from the disabled list on July 17.
The Mets had hoped Bay's bat would bring some power to their lineup in light of Lucas Duda's demotion to Triple-A, but the left fielder has gone 7-for-59 since he took over in left, and he hasn't hit a home run since July 18. With the Marlins sending right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the mound on Wednesday night, Collins finally felt it was time to move to a more permanent outfield platoon.
"We're going to certainly pick our spots for [Bay] to play," Collins said. "I'll put him in against some right-handed pitchers that he's had good success against when he's starting to swing the bat like he's capable of."
Collins' decision to start Baxter in right field and Valdespin in left field on Wednesday was based on Baxter's more polished resume in the outfield. Valdespin, a converted infielder, will play what Collins believes is the easier of the two corner outfield positions against right-handers.
But once Duda proves he's fixed his swing in Buffalo, that could all change. Collins said Bay and Duda could platoon in left field -- where Duda played in the Minor Leagues -- leaving the roles for Baxter, Valdespin and Scott Hairston at the manager's discretion.
Triple-A manager Wally Backman told Collins that Duda is beginning to look better at the plate, where he's cut down on the amount of extraneous movement and developed a quieter swing.
"My whole thing was, what got Lucas Duda to the Major Leagues was his ability to drive the ball to left-center field," Collins said. "You look back to last year, when he did damage, he drove the balls to left-center and right-center field off lefties or righties. All of the sudden this year, it was, 'I've got to pull. I've got to hit balls in the seats.'"
Collins and Bay had a talk on Tuesday about the change in the outfielder's role going forward. Neither could offer a reason for why Bay's power has suddenly gone missing.
"We watch him on a daily basis hit balls in the upper deck, and it sounds like it might be easy because it's batting practice, but you've got to supply the power in batting practice because it's 60 mph as compared to 90 in a game," Collins said. "We know it's still in there. We've just got to somehow get him back in."
Collins envisions Tejada as No. 2 hitter
NEW YORK -- Ruben Tejada has had plenty of success at the top of the Mets' order in 2012, but that's not where manager Terry Collins thinks his shortstop will ultimately thrive.
Collins said on Wednesday that he thinks Tejada will eventually be a dangerous No. 2 hitter. Tejada is hitting .312 with 24 hits in 77 at-bats from the two-spot this season, but the team's overall lack of production from the leadoff spot has forced him to the top of the lineup.
"One of the things Ruben's done for us in the games we've played well is he's gotten on base," Collins said. "If your leadoff hitter's not getting on, [whoever is] hitting second, you might as well lead him off, and that's what we're doing."
Tejada carried a career-high 12-game hitting streak into Wednesday's game against the Marlins, and he's hitting .331 (55-of-166) since returning from the disabled list on June 24. He extended the hit streak to 13 games with a leadoff single in the third inning.
"He can handle the bat, he doesn't strike out and puts the ball around the field," Collins said. "I think one of these days, he's going to be the kind of guy where if you get the leadoff guy on and he gets a first-pitch fastball, he's going to hit it into the seats. I think because of his offensive ceiling, he's going to have a chance to be a really good second hitter."
Johan won't be limited in return from disabled list
NEW YORK -- Johan Santana threw his scheduled bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field, and manager Terry Collins said the southpaw will pitch without any limitations on Saturday against the Braves.
The start will be Santana's first since he was placed on the disabled list on July 21 with a sprained right ankle. He threw three scoreless innings and three simulated innings in the bullpen with Class A Brooklyn on Sunday.
"I'm very, very confident that Saturday night we're going to see a good outing out of Johan, because he's feeling so much better about the way his arm feels, the way his leg feels and the energy he's gotten back," Collins said. "But we can be very cautious with him during the month of September to make sure he goes into the offseason feeling good."
Collins said to not be surprised if he opts to give Santana extra rest on a regular basis in September to ensure he finishes the year strong.
"I don't want to go into next Spring Training trying to find if Johan Santana is going to be healthy again," Collins said. "I want to know he is."
Adam Rosenbloom and Ethan Asofsky are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.