PITTSBURGH -- I've had quite a reunion the last couple hours in picturesque PNC Park (click pic to see press box view at left), visiting with several Mets with Buffalo connections. Got a chance to pop into manager Terry Collins' office before his daily briefing with beat reporters and he's still as enthusiastic and energetic as he was the first time I met him in 1989.
Had a great chat with Mets bench coach and former Herd manager Ken Oberkfell, who's thrilled to make it back to the big leagues as a coach after a long career as a player. Visited in the dugout with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who starts here Saturday and joked that I had to make the drive here to "see the Bisons". One of them, Dillon Gee, tries to improve his record to 7-0 tonight in the series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates (7 p.m. at SNY).
The big subject of the day, however, is Lucas Duda. He's back with the big club, batting sixth and playing left field. Duda is 2-20 in 10 games with the Mets this year but hit .302 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 38 games in Buffalo this year -- including a .413 clip since coming off the disabled list May 28 after a back strain.
"Anytime you get an opportunity like this, you want to make the most of it and the last couple times I really haven't made the most of it," Duda said before the game. "If you play good in the minors, in Triple-A, I think they might throw you a bone and give you another shot.
"The last couple times I've been up, I haven't been too confident in myself. Hopefully now that I've been up and down for a little bit, I can build on that and gain some confidence and be myself."
With struggling Jason Bay getting his second straight night off, Duda figures to get a chance for a few days in the outfield and perhaps first base.
"I want to see the swings I know he has," Collins said. "I want to see that aggressive, in-balance, strong swing. I'm not asking him to hit homers. I know from the other times he's been here, because I've seen him, that there's a better swing in there and I want to see him use that lower body to drive some balls.
"There can't be a better time. He's red hot and let's see what he can do. ... We all know if this guy swings the bat like he's capable of, he will stay. The ceiling on this guy offensively is very, very high."
Among the Buffalo contingent, tonight's Mets lineup features Justin Turner batting second and playing third base, Duda in left, Josh Thole catching and batting seventh and Ruben Tejeda playing second and batting eighth.
Here's Duda's complete session with the media today: