Duda shining as Triple-A rookie

duda1.jpgPower numbers coming through at minors’ highest level
By Justin Sheinis / Buffalo Bisons

Despite standing in the batter’s box at an imposing 6’5″ and 240 pounds, Lucas Duda was not known as much of a home run hitter coming into 2010.

The Mets 7th round pick of the 2007 Draft had just 24 total homer in his first three pro seasons combined. He had four long balls in his first year with Single-A Brooklyn, 11 in 2008 with Single-A St. Lucie and nine more last season with Binghamton at the Double-A level.

However, Duda has broken out of his shell in 2010…and in a big way.

The newest power hitter in the Mets’ system has 13 home runs already this year, seven of which have come in a record-breaking debut with the Buffalo Bisons.

“There’s a lot of work in the [batting] cages,” Duda explained. “But ultimately, you get a pitch to hit and luckily you put some good wood on it and it leaves the yard.”

Duda has found the sweet spot regularly with the Herd since a June 14 promotion from Binghamton. The outfielder has driven in 22 runs in only 20 games and matched an all-time Buffalo record by homering in five consecutive games from June 29 – July 2.

That put Duda firmly in the Bisons record books with some impressive names, including Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famers Ollie Carnegie, Carlos Garcia and Bill Selby. That last Bison to homer in five straight was third baseman Andy Marte in 2006.

The great week at the plate was also noticed by the International League, who dubbed him with its Batter the Week. He led the IL with five home runs, 11 RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage during the stretch. He is the third Bison to win the honor this year, joining Mike Hessman and Jesus Feliciano.

Duda’s arrival at Triple-A was actually supposed to happen earlier in the season. The Mets had their eyes on the prospect early, but a right hamstring strain slowed down Duda’s progress.

“Before he injured himself at Double-A, he was swinging great,” said New York Mets minor league field coordinator and former Bisons manager Terry Collins, who was in town to witness the impressive homer streak. “He was just weeks away from coming here (Triple-A) in April or May, but now he’s here and I’m glad he is because he is showing everyone that he belongs here.”

“Before the injury I felt great, but obviously that slowed me down a little bit,” Duda said. “I think now I’m starting to pick up some good at-bats and have some good swings.”

Duda’s good swings have mean runs on the board for the Bisons. But although the honors and attention that have come from the home run stretch are nice feathers in Duda’s cap, in the end his objective for the season remains the same.

“I would rather win some games than have that streak and honor, that’s always the bigger goal.”

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