Binghamton's Duncan grinds through

It was two years ago that Jeff Duncan shot up to become the momentary buzz of the Big Apple, energizing a lifeless 2003 Mets club with his speed, hustle and youthful demeanor. (Premium Inside Pitch Content)

Not ranked as one of the team's top prospects, Duncan was an exciting player nevertheless, appearing as a possible diamond in the rough – especially when he hit .406 through his first 15 games at the big league level.

"I knew I could do it," Duncan said. "It's just a matter being able to do it on a consistent basis, and that's something I tried to work on. It's just part of growing up and maturing as a player."

With injuries decimating the Mets, Duncan was on board as an outfielder with the club for most of the 2003 season, his production leveling off with cold months of August and September that saw him hit just .142.

It has been 13 months since Duncan, now 26, was seen at Shea Stadium, an injury plagued stint that appears to have been his Mets farewell.

He was not invited to the Mets' major league camp during spring training, and center field now belongs to $119 million star Carlos Beltran – with two-time Gold Glover Mike Cameron as an understudy.

These days, Duncan again calls Double-A Binghamton his home, and on a club with promising offensive talents like switch-hitting shortstop Anderson Hernandez and slugger Mike Jacobs, Duncan remains as the only player with a big-league at-bat on the roster (catcher Joe Hietpas was with the Mets for one defensive appearance last year, but never got to hit).

Duncan has resigned himself to the fact that his future will not be in New York, and wonders if a trade could be on the horizon to give him a fresh start in a new organization.

"I don't look at it with the Mets," Duncan said. "I just look at it as that I'm playing for every other major league club out there. It's the reality of it. I just go out here and do whatever I can to get better."

Duncan has two years left before he can declare six-year minor league free agency, and while his numbers are solid – Duncan is batting .260 with three home runs, 19 RBI and eight stolen bases through 54 games for the B-Mets – they are not eye-popping.

"There's some days it's kind of tough, it really is," Duncan said. "I've just got to keep going, get through it and get better every day."

Though many have opined that the Mets rushed Duncan to the majors, delivering a blow to his sky-high confidence, Duncan subscribes to the theory that whatever hasn't killed you can only make you stronger.

The outfielder from Frankport, Ill. says he refuses to regret anything about his big league experience.

"It was a great opportunity and, no doubt, a good learning experience," Duncan said. "I had success there, and I had failure there. I take the good with the bad and learn from them.

"Going through the tough times coming down, I still feel like I'm the same player. If anything, I'm actually a bit better. That's how I look at it."

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