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Davis must work out issues in the big leagues

The Blue Jays told Adam Lind, a former 114-RBI man, to try his luck in Las Vegas. The Marlins reminded former all-star Gaby Sanchez that hitting is no big easy vocation when they shipped him to New Orleans. And the scuttlebutt around the Mets for nearly a week was that first baseman Ike Davis -- arguably baseball's worst hitter so far -- was going to be shuffled back to Buffalo any day. Davis probably could use some time here, as his .168 average heading into Saturday would attest, but manager Terry Collins diffused all the talk in the last couple days. 2

For now at least, Davis will work out his kinks in the big leagues, even if that means reduced playing time in the actual games. Davis sat out Saturday against San Diego lefty Clayton Richard, and his batting average is ahead of only Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks (.155) among players who qualify for the leaders.

Davis is just 6 for 66 at home (an MLB-worst .091) with hideous numbers that include a .167 on-base percentage and .106 slugging percentage. He has one extra-base hit, a double, all season in Citi Field. But the Mets say they will stay with him. Oooooooook.

"Obviously they have confidence in me, they're backing me and they know I'm going to get through this," Davis said last week in Pittsburgh. "So I'm going to be here for awhile, and it's just up to me to start playing better."

"It was the easy way out and this game's not easy," Collins said of a trip back to Triple-A, where Davis played only 10 games for the Herd in 2010. "And if he's going to be an outstanding major league player, he's gotta learn to fight through some tough times. Every time somebody goes through a slump, we're not sending 'em out.

"They gotta learn how to fight through it, and grind out at-bats, and make it work, and learn how to adjust, and he's not gonna learn how to adjust in Buffalo."

The Mets' pronouncement that Davis is not going to Triple-A has clearly had some impact on him. He had a pinch-hit two-run double Thursday against the Padres and a two-run single in Friday's win.

"To be honest, when it came to the Ike Davis decision, come on, we're trying to build for the future," Collins told the New York Post on Friday night. "I know it's important to win today, I understand that, but the big picture down the road is we've got these young core guys and we have to learn to play up here and succeed."

Davis hit 19 homers and collected 71 RBIs in 2010 but had just seven homers and 25 RBIs in 36 games last season, missing most of the season with an ankle injury. He contracted Valley Fever over the winter in Arizona, and was told in the spring to avoid extreme fatigue. There's no way to tell how much that has had an impact on Davis this season, but it's certainly one theory.

Another is the way the Mets were trying to get Davis to hit more to all fields, something the team seems to be scrapping in favor of letting Davis return to his more natural pull approach. There's also tinkering being done to quiet his batting stance.

"I can go down to Buffalo and hit .400 and then I'd still have to come back here and prove that I can hit here," Davis said. "Personally for me, I didn't want to go down because yeah, it might give me a mental break from struggling, but it's not going to prove anything or help me out at this level. So I'm excited to get back on the field and know that I'll be here and go play."

> Tribe fans irk Perez

Indians closer Chris Perez has had a rough time with fans at Progressive Field since he blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning of the season opener and the Tribe went on to lose in 16 innings. But he hasn't blown a save since then either and Perez finally blew his top after a quick 10-pitch save last weekend against the Marlins.

"I was tired of getting booed at home so I figured, 'I'd better throw some strikes.' You can quote that," said Perez, who was torched by fans two days earlier for putting two runners on while pitching a scoreless 10th inning against the Mariners.

"It feels like I can't even give up a base runner without people booing me. It's even worse when there's only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It [ticks] me off."

Perez said the Indians lose out on free agents because of their tiny, surly crowds. Cleveland entered Saturday averaging 16,374 per game. No one else in baseball is under 19,700.

"The fans can't take it personal when the players don't want to stay here or players don't want to come here," he said. "It's a business. You didn't choose to get drafted by Cleveland. I'm in it for my family. Who knows? I could throw my last pitch tomorrow. Guys don't want to come over here and people wonder why 'Why doesn't Carlos Beltran want to come over here?' Well, because of that. That's part of it. It doesn't go unnoticed -- trust us."

Perez had a meeting last Sunday with GM Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro and didn't really back down from his comments.

"I don't understand the negativity, in general," he said. "Why? We have a first-place team. How many teams in the country would want that right now? You think the Tigers are happy? The Tigers are in third place. We're in first place -- enjoy it. We could be in last place. We could be the Royals, we could be the Pirates, who haven't won anything in 20 years.

"It's just a slap in the face when you're in first place and last in attendance. Last. It's not like we're 25th, 26th. We're last. Oakland is out-drawing us. That's embarrassing."

> Vlad nearing return

Free agent signee Vladimir Guerrero is playing for the Blue Jays in extended spring games and eventually will make his way up the minor-league ladder. Toronto reporters are speculating he might join the Jays on June 25 in Boston, after interleague series in Milwaukee and Miami that won't use the designated hitter are completed.

"He will dictate, one, if he's still major-league capable and, two, when he is capable," Jays manager John Farrell said. "And that will take place through a progression, through extended, once we get him out and whether we take a step-by-step approach through the system, to [Class A] Dunedin to [Double-A] New Hampshire. That hasn't been outlined yet. We're working off of Vlad and how he's showing."

Guerrero has 445 career home runs and reiterated last week that getting to 500 is a major reason he held on this year looking for a big-league deal even though one didn't come during spring training.

> Around the horn

* A couple incredible Pirates factoids, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau: Monday's 5-4 win over the Mets snapped a 160-game losing streak in contests when trailing by four or more runs that dated to 2009, and their 1-2 mark last weekend in Detroit dropped the Bucs to a startling 8-48 in their last 56 interleague games.

* Yankees outfielder Dewayne Wise, on Scranton/Wilkes-Barre playing games at tiny Dwyer Stadium in Batavia: "That's an American Legion field, something you play on in high school, maybe Little League. That should not have been [used in] Triple-A. It was absolutely brutal. They were trying but it just wasn't good enough."

* When former Bisons catcher Rob Johnson pitched a scoreless inning in a 14-5 loss last week in Toronto for the Mets, he became the first Met to ever play pitcher and catcher in the same game, and the first player from any team to post a strikeout as both a catcher (on the receiving end) and a pitcher in the same game since Scott Sheldon did it for the Rangers in 2000.

* Happy birthday to former Baltimore Orioles manager Joe Altobelli, who led the O's to a World Series title in 1983 and turned 80 Saturday. "Alto" is a legend in his adopted hometown of Rochester, where he has lived since 1966 and served as manager and general manager of the Red Wings.

He was a radio analyst for Wings games from 1998-2009, and this corner can proclaim first-hand what a pleasure it was to talk baseball with him before games on so many summer nights in Frontier Field. True perk of the job. What a storyteller.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com