NEW YORK – Lucas Duda channeled his inner Marshawn Lynch on Thursday, telling reporters in the visitor's dugout at Yankee Stadium that he’s “excited to be here” 11 times during a seven-minute introductory press conference.
The 31-year-old slugger had every reason to repeat that phrase 1.57 times per minute; he was traded from the struggling Mets Wednesday and thrust into a postseason push with the Rays. Dressed in his navy blue batting practice warmup, gray pants, and blue cap, Duda was excited to be here.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” said Duda, a man who spent his first seven-plus seasons in New York and joined his new team to face his old team’s crosstown rivals. “But like I said, I’m happy to here and hope to contribute.”
Duda described the last 24 hours as a whirlwind; he was expected to be a middle-of-the-order bat supplying a dominant, young Mets pitching staff with offensive support. Well, he was providing the support, carrying a .246/.347/.532 slash line with 17 home runs through 75 games. However, a rash of injuries to the pitching staff and offense—Duda included—stymied the Mets’ playoff hopes and turned the once-World-Series-hopefuls into deadline sellers.
The Riverside, California, native is set to be the Rays’ full-time designated hitter, despite getting the start at first base on Friday due to a heel/ankle injury to Logan Morrison. He will provide the offensive firepower, but for Rays pitchers, who also couldn’t be more excited
“The power element, he fits right in with what we try to do,” Rays ace Chris Archer said after finding out about the acquisition of Duda Thursday night. “He has a pretty good eye, too, I’m not exactly sure of his walk numbers. He puts up high-quality at-bats; I’m not sure where he will hit in our lineup but it’s going to be nice [to have him].”
In a way, Duda’s left-handed swing will replace that of Colby Rasmus, who recently mysteriously left the team for the rest of the season. While manager Kevin Cash says he hadn’t thought of Duda as a Rasmus replacement, he’s glad to have the veteran bat at his disposal.
“[Duda is] a veteran bat, [with] power, [and] he’s hit very well this year and hit throughout his career,” Cash said to reporters, including DRaysBay, about his new DH with 125 career HRs.
Duda is a free agent at the end of the season, so his future is unknown. The Mets don’t figure to be interested in a reunion with top first base prospect Dominic Smith on the cusp of a promotion. Therefore, Duda’s focus is helping lead Tampa Bay back to the World Series for the first time since 2008.
In joining the Rays, Duda becomes one of three players on the 25-man roster with World Series experience: reliever Sergio Romo and franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria being the other two.
“I have been following this team, I know where we are in the standings . . . this is a shot in the arm for me,” Duda said. “For the fifteenth time, I’m excited to be here, guys.”