NEW YORK -- The most puzzling aspect of shortstop Ruben Tejada's defensive struggles this season, manager Terry Collins said, is that nothing in Tejada's history suggested this might happen. Tejada committed just 12 errors in 112 games last season, averaging one miscue every nine games for his career. While he may not boast the range of an elite defensive shortstop, most advanced metrics peg him as at least above-average.
Yet Tejada committed four errors in his first five games this season, botching plays that would not normally trouble him.
"I'm not concerned about his focus," Collins said before Tejada committed his fourth error in Saturday's victory. "We know he's a better player than what's going on defensively right now. If there's one guy on the field who you want the ball hit at, it's usually him."
Tejada did leave the worst of his offensive struggles in Spring Training, ripping two doubles and drawing three walks over his first four games. But his defense has become an issue for the Mets, contributing heavily to Miami's game-winning rally in the seventh inning Friday, and to another run that put the Mets temporarily behind Saturday.
"Everybody goes through it," third baseman David Wright said. "It's tough to go through it the first homestand, but I think -- and I still continue to think -- he's a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop."
His manager also does not expect this trend to last.
"I've seen what everybody else has," Collins said. "He's made some very, very good plays, but he's let a couple plays get away. We're so accustomed to him making every play that it's shocking when he doesn't."
Buck becomes force at plate, not just behind it
NEW YORK -- Heading into this season, the Mets understood how much they would rely on John Buck's game-calling behind the plate. They perhaps did not realize how much they would depend on his offense.
Cracking two home runs with a .421 average and nine RBIs over the first five games of the season, Buck has established himself as a force in the middle of New York's lineup. A card-carrying 20-homer slugger as recently as three years ago, Buck watched his production dip significantly in each of the past two years. With the Mets, he is trending in the other direction.
"It feels good," Buck said. "If I was going to write it up, this is the way I'd do it."
Still, the Mets are wary of using their veteran catcher too often. To that end, they plan to rest him Sunday in favor of backup Anthony Recker for the first time this season.
"He can use a blow like everybody else," manager Terry Collins said.
Familia optioned to clear room for Laffey
NEW YORK -- Needing to clear roster space for Sunday's starting pitcher, Aaron Laffey, the Mets optioned reliever Jeurys Familia to Triple-A Las Vegas. To make room for Laffey on the 40-man roster, the Mets also transferred Johan Santana from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list.
Familia, 23, appeared in just one game for the Mets, recording one out and allowing one run on a hit and a walk. Though there has been considerable debate in recent years over Familia's ultimate future, he will pitch out of the bullpen at Las Vegas.
Laffey will start Sunday against the Marlins and remain in the rotation for as long as he pitches well.
The transfer of Santana was merely procedural; he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week.
Davis hoping slump will disappear with beard
NEW YORK -- With his season-opening 1-for-16 slump perhaps weighing on him a bit, first baseman Ike Davis stalked to the clubhouse bathroom Saturday morning with a razor in hand, prepared once again to shave his trademark beard.
Davis trimmed his facial hair midway through Spring Training and enjoyed a strong Grapefruit League season, so perhaps there is a method to his superstition. The first baseman is willing to try almost anything to avoid the type of slump he endured in 2012, lasting from Opening Day into mid-June.
"This time of year, one of the only ways to get out of it is to get him in there," manager Terry Collins said, justifying Davis' continued presence in the lineup. "If he's searching for his stroke, he's not going to find it in the batting cage. He's going to find it in game situations, as we saw last year."
Collins indicated that Davis would not receive his first off day until Tuesday, when the Mets face Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee.
• Despite Collins' recent proclamation that Collin Cowgill would receive the lion's share of playing time in center field, Cowgill was out of the starting lineup Saturday for the second straight game. Collins said he wanted to give outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter their first starts of the season and that Cowgill would return to starting duty soon.
"It's not something that Collin hasn't done," Collins said. "It's just that I've been trying to get these other guys in the lineup."