MILWAUKEE -- After he returned from Triple-A Buffalo late last month, Lucas Duda had a conversation with Mets manager Terry Collins. The talk left the Mets skipper believing Duda was better prepared for the Major League level than before being sent down.
"You talk to him now, he'll tell you he belongs here," Collins said. "I asked him when he came back, I said, 'You went down to do some things. ... Do you think you belong here?' He said, 'Absolutely. I'm a Major League player. I know it. I've just got to start hitting.'"
Duda, who homered and drove in two runs Friday, has collected 13 hits in 15 games since his return, with two home runs and nine RBIs. He started in left field and is expected to play every day over the final three weeks of the Mets' season.
Collins said he has seen a quieter approach at the plate from Duda recently.
"He's worked very, very hard to slow some of the things down that he does," Collins said. "He's got a lot of movement up there. Even though there's still some, it's better than it was."
Hitting coach Dave Hudgens also has talked with Duda about being more aggressive in hitter's counts, and Collins said he thought such an approach could pay off quite well.
"We understand the theory, but don't get yourself in a hole," Collins said. "You're taking the one pitch that you can do the most damage. I think if Lucas continues to [be more aggressive], because he is disciplined enough, he'll start getting some offspeed stuff early in the count, which, if he takes them, maybe he'll get in better hitting counts, too."
Mejia not nervous for first start in two years
MILWAUKEE -- When he takes the mound Saturday at Miller Park, it will be exactly two years since the date of Jenrry Mejia's last Major League start.
While he has pitched in relief since then, Mejia will be the Mets' starting pitcher for the first time since Sept. 15, 2010. Mejia said he was more excited than nervous about his first big league start since having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
"I won't be nervous now, because I did it before," Mejia said. "If this was my first time here, I'm going to be nervous. ... Just get out there and throw my pitches."
Since his last Mets start, Mejia has pitched in 35 games over the last two years at three Minor League levels. He pitched in 26 games for Triple-A Buffalo this season, including 10 starts, where he went 3-4 with a 3.54 ERA.
While the next three weeks will not be enough time to truly evaluate Mejia, the 22-year-old right-hander said he hopes to show that he belongs as a starter. In three starts at the end of the 2010 season, Mejia gave up 10 earned runs on 17 hits and five walks over 11 1/3 innings.
But even after missing so much time, Mejia believes he is a better pitcher now than he was then.
"It's different now because I have a little bit more control of my pitches," Mejia said. "Before, I threw like, 'Strike, strike.' But now, I'm thinking about, 'Where am I throwing it -- inside, outside?'"
Mets manager Terry Collins said he was eager to see Mejia start again.
One of the biggest things Collins and the Mets will look at in evaluating Mejia is whether he can consistently throw three pitches for strikes. Collins said he hoped to make his own judgments on Mejia rather than rely on what others have seen this year in his Minor League outings.
"I saw him two years ago and he was pretty stinkin' good," Collins said. "It was electric stuff for sure."
Mets want to see more of Valdespin at the plate
MILWAUKEE -- Throughout his first season with the Mets, utility player Jordany Valdespin has been very versatile, seeing time all over the outfield and at both middle-infield spots.
Valdespin started Friday night in right field, and the majority (36 of 54 games) of his time has come in the outfield. But as far as a long-term fit, Mets manager Terry Collins sees the 24-year-old as "more of an infielder."
"But right now, we want to try to get him in the lineup a little bit to see how he's going to handle the bat, how his bat's going to play," Collins said. "There's a lot of talk about, 'Let's see if this guy's going to hit or not."
Valdespin entered the weekend series in Milwaukee batting .244 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. Out of those eight homers, five have come in pinch-hit appearances.
Those pinch-hit home runs aside, what kind of hitter is Valdespin?
"One of the things I'm seeing is that he's going up there now with a little bit better game plan," Collins said. "When he first got up here, he was coming right out of the gates swinging like crazy and had some great success.
"Now they've changed the way they pitch to him, and I think he's starting to make some adjustments. I'm going to hope that as we get near the end of the season, that he continues to get better at it."
Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.