HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had to hear the booing at Citi Field throughout a miserable homestand.
He took steps to begin fixing the problems Monday after a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, firing hitting coach Dave Hudgens and cutting reliever Jose Valverde.
“This is a very difficult decision to make. I’ve known Dave for many years, decades,” Alderson said. “Our situational hitting is not where we want it to be.”
Minor league hitting coordinator Lamar Johnson will take over for Hudgens. The 63-year-old Johnson has been in this role with the Mets for 10 of his 11 years in the organization and is responsible for helping teach the organization’s hitting philosophy throughout the minors.
The Mets have tried to implement a plan of patience at the plate but the results have not shown.
“Our hitting approach will not change appreciably,” Alderson said. “Any time there’s a new person, there’s a new voice, a new take, a different interpretation both from a mechanical and an approach point of view.”
The 57-year-old Hudgens was in his fourth season as the Mets’ hitting coach. The Mets began the day with a .237 batting average, ranking among the worst in the majors. They have scored just 32 runs in losing nine of 12.
“This is by no means Dave Hudgens’ fault. Not whatsoever,” manager Terry Collins said. “It’s about trying to get the execution better. We’ll see if change helps.”
The problems are more glaring with runners in scoring position: New York is 13 for 66 (.197) in that situation in the first seven games of a nine-game homestand after getting one hit in eight tries Monday.
The Mets hit into five double plays Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Arizona in the first-game of a doubleheader. Daniel Murphy hit into one of the team’s two double plays Monday, wiping out another hit by Jacob deGrom.
“There’s frustration at the way we’re playing. There’s frustration with the way the offense is going and that Dave unfortunately bears the brunt of that,” Murphy said. “It stinks.”
David Wright was unhappy that the popular coach lost his job over what he thinks is the players’ fault.
“When you struggle the way we’ve struggled offensively, a finger, obviously, gets pointed. A lot of times that finger gets pointed unfairly,” Wright said.
Alderson said this was not to read as a warning to Collins.
“I think this is in response to a specific situation,” Alderson said. “Nothing else should be read into it by any means.”
The Mets have been revamping their bullpen, and Valverde’s dismissal after allowing four runs while getting only two outs in the eighth and ninth innings is the next step.
With new closer Jenrry Mejia unavailable after pitching both games of the doubleheader Sunday, Collins turned to Valverde.
Valverde (1-1) was booed off the field after allowing pinch-hitter Jose Tabata’s tying single in the eighth. He returned for the ninth and was even worse, yielding four runs overall.
“Don’t think for one second that there’s not a guy in there that realizes that this is part of it. We just released one of the best professionals I ever been around in Jose Valverde,” a fired-up Collins said. “You deal with it, and if you can’t you don’t belong in the game.”
With one out in the ninth, Valverde gave up a single to Neil Walker and walked Andrew McCutchen.
Gary Sanchez, who homered off Scott Rice to open the eighth, then singled to left, scoring Walker. Juan Centeno couldn’t handle Curtis Granderson’s throw that bounced to the right of the plate and skittered past Valverde, who was backing up but way too close to the catcher. McCutchen scored on Granderson’s error for a two-run lead.
Valverde gave up four runs as the Pirates took the lead. The 36-year-old righty was 1-1 with a 5.66 ERA.
Valverde joined the Mets this year after pitching for Detroit last season. He briefly was New York’s closer before losing the job.
Reporters were told Valverde had left the ballpark even though his street clothes remained in his locker.
Right-hander Vic Black is being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill Valverde’s spot.
“Our bullpen will get better when our young pitchers emerge at the major league level,” Alderson said. “Not only will we have better arms, but we’ll have more flexibility.”
In the minors, top prospect Noah Syndergaard was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to May 22, because of a mild flexor-pronator strain in his right elbow. The flexor-pronator muscle is on the inside of the elbow, forearm area.
The Mets said the Triple-A Las Vegas ace will be brought to New York for an exam.
Syndergaard was acquired in a trade that sent 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto. He is Baseball America’s No. 6 righty pitching prospect and is expected to make his big league debut this year.
“We’re very concerned about it, obviously, I don’t know too many guys — I shouldn’t say that, I know a lot of guys who go to the doctor and it’s nothing. But I know some go to the doctor and it’s an issue,” Collins said. “Anytime you go in and the word ‘elbow’ shows up, especially when you throw as hard as he does, it’s a concern.
NOTES: The Mets placed OF Eric Young Jr. on the DL because of a right hamstring strain. They recalled OF Matt den Dekker from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his place. … Up Next: Pirates RHP Edinson Volquez (2-4) faces Mets LHP Jonathon Niese (3-3) on Tuesday night.
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