LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) – Lucas Duda was ready to hit as soon as he bounced off the bench.
Duda had three hits while filling in for ailing Angel Pagan and the New York Mets roughed up Brad Penny for five runs in the second inning before holding off the Detroit Tigers 7-4 on Tuesday.
Pagan, taking over in center field for Carlos Beltran this season, left because of tightness in his lower back. Duda entered in the second inning and scored two runs.
Mets starter Jonathon Niese gave up four runs in the second, but didn’t allow any more in his four innings.
“Niese is still working on things and I certainly support everything he is trying to do,” New York manager Terry Collins said. “He’s a grinder. I am not concerned.”
Before the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Will Rhymes had won the second base job. Last year’s opening-day starter, Scott Sizemore, was sent to the minors.
Rhymes batted .304 in 54 games last season. Three-time All-Star Carlos Guillen was expected to be a possibility at second, but he is still out with an injury to his left knee.
Leyland said last season’s success was enough to give Rhymes an upper hand during the audition this spring. Guillen hasn’t batted yet in camp and Sizemore was hitting .243. Rhymes has batted .289 and played a solid second base.
“Sizemore is absolutely a major leaguer. He’s already a big leaguer now,” Leyland said. “But Will Rhymes had the opportunity last year and he hit .304 and he deserves the shot to be on this team. Based on what he did last year, he deserved the first shot. He came to the big leagues and he did his job and earned the reward. You have to reward people for their success.”
Leyland has Rhymes penciled in as the No. 2 hitter.
Rhymes was calm about getting the starting nod.
“Of course I wanted to be in the big leagues. It was my dream, but I am not jumping up and down. I expected this if I had the chance,” Rhymes said. “I know I have to perform in the big leagues, but it’s not like I just learned to hit once I got there last season. All you have to do is look at my record in the minors.”
Rhymes had a .289 average over five-plus seasons in the minors and said he felt he had enough of a resume to make the majors.
“I have a lot of respect for the game,” Rhymes said. “But I played the way I needed to play. I know the organization has some great players, but I am not going to be looking over my shoulder at anyone.”
Leyland said no one should count out Sizemore or Danny Worth, another infielder in the hunt for the second base job. That’s not to mention Guillen, who is rehabbing his left knee and will stay in Florida when the team breaks camp.
Daniel Schlereth pitched two scoreless innings of relief for the Tigers, a week after walking four batters in one-third of an inning against St. Louis.
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