Former hitting coach Howard Johnson says benching Jason Bay is “ridiculous”

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Jason Bay was back in the starting lineup tonight against the Pirates following a brief two-game absence. In fact, he snapped his career-worst 0-for-24 hitless streak with a bloop single in the fourth inning. But former Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson told the New York Post that the struggling outfielder shouldn’t have been benched in the first place.

“It’s ridiculous it’s come to that,” the former Mets hitting coach said by phone yesterday. “If he’s supposed to be part of the solution, I don’t see the point of taking him out of the equation. It’s sending him mixed messages. I don’t care if he’s 0-for-50, you’re not going to get him relaxed by taking him out of the lineup.”

I assume Charlie Samuels wasn’t available for comment. I mean, he spent plenty of time in the Mets’ clubhouse last season, too, right? Let’s hear what he has to say about it.

Naturally, Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t thrilled with Johnson’s commentary. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, he fired back before tonight’s game against the Pirates.

“As soon as I showed up at the ballpark today, I was slapped in the face with Howard Johnson telling us we should play him and not bench him,” Collins said. “I don’t really call it a benching. I would call it more of a time off kind of thing. The other thing, and I think the world of Howard Johnson, but he hasn’t got all the facts. So he should be careful what he actually says when he doesn’t have all the facts.”

It’s not clear what Collins is alluding to here, but he did say before tonight’s game that Bay is going to be his regular left fielder moving forward. It seems like Bay was likely OK with the idea of sitting down for a couple days. Of course, I can’t say that for sure, but I’m pretty sure that Howard Johnson can’t either. We’re both speculating, after all.

Report: Red Sox, J.D. Martinez close to a deal

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox and outfielder J.D. Martinez are close to a deal. He takes care to note that the deal is not done yet and the details are not known yet.

Martinez, 30, entered the offseason as the top free agent hitter. Last season, between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, he hit a lusty .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances. He missed the first 33 games of the season with a sprained right foot; one wonders what his numbers might’ve been like if he hadn’t been injured.

The Red Sox were the team most strongly linked to Martinez throughout the offseason, despite the relatively slow-moving market. Martinez said he wants to play in the outfield and the Red Sox are currently spoken for at all three positions with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez is also penciled in at DH. Should the Martinez deal become official, the Red Sox may try to trade Bradley and move Benintendi to center field. If Martinez is willing to concede his outfield wishes, the Red Sox could slot him in at DH and move Ramirez to first base.

The AL East is shaping up to be a familiar two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees. The addition of Martinez, in a way, answers the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton.