PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Out of the cloud of dust at the warning track popped Matt den Dekker, another dangerous flyball secured in his glove.
But that bat . . .
Den Dekker swings and misses. A lot. In 135 games last season with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, he fanned 154 times in 585 plate appearances, more than a quarter of the time.
The trend continued this spring. In his first 16 games against major league competition, the lefthanded batter whiffed 14 times.
"Right now I'm not swinging the bat as well as I'd like to," den Dekker said during the dying days of spring training. "But I'm still going out there and working. I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself."
The 25-year-old center fielder, a fifth-round pick who played his college ball at Florida, has spent most of spring training dedicated to enhancing the quality of his swing.
"I see a guy who's worked hard at trying to have a little more discipline at the plate—almost to a fault," Mets manger Terry Collins said. "At times, he ends up taking certain pitches that he's got to hunt."
Collins said that the Mets' philosophy on working the count does not involve taking the first pitch. If the first pitch is over the heart of the plate, Collins wants his hitters taking a cut.
In den Dekker's case, Collins thinks he is letting a few too many meatballs go without taking a hack.
"There's been some at-bats where he's been behind fast in the count," Collins said. "Now you're on the defensive. It changes the kind of hitter you are."
Collins knows that den Dekker has power—he clubbed 17 home runs and 31 doubles while batting .274/.321/.458 last season—but he needs to see more of that power in games.
Along with fewer whiffs.
• The Mets optioned righthander Zack Wheeler to Triple-A Las Vegas on March 10, though they fully expect the 22-year-old top prospect to join the major league club at some point this season.
• Third baseman Wilmer Flores, who played 66 games with Binghamton last season, hit just .143 (3-for-21) in 13 games with the Mets this spring. The Mets optioned him back to Double-A, where he batted .311/.361/.494 with eight homers in 242 at-bats in 2012.