Jason Bay had a disappointing first season in New York last year, and if the Mets offense is going to be any better this year, they need Bay to have a bounce-back season.

Clearly, Bay is capable of having a big season at the plate. He’s done it in the past with the Pirates and Red Sox numerous times.

I’ve spent a few days in Port St. Lucie this week to watch the Mets play in spring training and I have to admit, it’s troubling to see how badly Bay is struggling right now.

Now, I know full well that it would be foolish to make projections about the regular season based on spring training performance. Every year there are dozens of players who have great spring trainings and then go on to have less than stellar seasons, and vice versa.

However, at the same time, I think it would be unwise to completely disregard what I’ve seen with my own eyes.

Right now, Jason Bay is struggling as bad as I’ve seen a Major Leaguer struggle in spring training. This is not a case of a guy getting unlucky on his batting average on balls in play, or getting squeezed by an umpire consistently, or anything like that.

In the two games I’ve watched in person, in the six place appearances Bay has had, he’s looked terrible. Yes, it’s the smallest of sample sizes.

But every other singe player on the team is at least making solid contact. In his six at bats, I saw him make solid contact on TWO pitches: a foul ground ball and a ground out to third.

To say his timing is off would be an understatement. He’s been late on a few pitches, earlier on others and has made contact less than five times in those two games.

He had three swinging strikeouts on Friday, only making contact on a single pitch in that game before being lifted from the game (as is custom in a spring training game) after his third at-bat.

Unfortunately, on Sunday he still looked pretty out of sorts. He actually put the ball into play in his first at-bat when he grounded out to the third baseman, but he struck out in his final two at-bats.

Both times he struck out looking. Both of those at-bats he took pitches right down the middle for strikes two and three.

Obviously, his timing is off right now and he’s not seeing the ball very well.

But it’s not like he’s been this bad all spring. Even with that 0-for-6 stretch, he’s still hitting .292 overall in the spring. But that’s with only a single extra base hit, a double, and no walks.

He’s now struck out 10 times in 24 spring at-bats with only one RBI, for what it’s worth.

I’m not saying Bay can’t get out of this slide and get hot again, but I’m starting to become pessimistic if he’ll ever live up to the big contract Omar Minaya gave him as a going away present to the Mets.

Bay was brought in to be a legitimate power threat in the middle of the lineup, and he was anything but in his 2010 debut with the Mets.

Again, I really don’t want to hit the panic button in the middle of March, but I would like to at least see some signs of life before April 1. Otherwise, it could be another long year for the Mets left fielder.

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