The Mets have placed first baseman Lucas Duda on the 15-day disabled list due to a stress fracture in his lower back, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. There’s no definitive timetable for his return, but manager Terry Collins said that it “will be awhile,” tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets that Collins added it’ll be “at least” four to six weeks for Duda, though that seems like a fairly optimistic timeline.
In a corresponding move, the Mets have selected the contract of infielder Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. Carig tweets that Kelly will get some time at first base along with Eric Campbell, but the club could also try Wilmer Flores and even Michael Conforto at first base in his absence. To clear room for Kelly on the 40-man roster, the team has designated left-hander Dario Alvarez for assignment, Rubin tweets.
Duda, 30, has seen his batting average, on-base percentage and power output each take a significant hit this season, and Mets manager Terry Collins admitted over the weekend that he was “really concerned” about the status of his slugging first baseman’s back. Duda batted .249/.350/.483 and launched 57 homers from 2014-15 while providing offense that was roughly 35 percent better than that of a league-average bat (per metrics like OPS+ and wRC+), but he’s been a shade below average with the bat this season and has seen his struggles escalate rapidly over the past couple of weeks. In 13 games (11 starts) dating back to May 5, Duda is hitting .171/.292/.220. That endpoint is admittedly arbitrary in nature (Duda homered twice on May 4) but does speak to his recent struggles at the dish.
The indefinite loss of Duda is a blow to a Mets lineup that currently ranks 25th in Major League Baseball with 167 runs scored, especially considering the fact that they’ve recently seen one of their hottest hitters, Conforto, go into a lengthy slump with a significant increase in strikeouts. Travis d’Arnaud is already on the disabled list and doesn’t appear close to a return, and Curtis Granderson is hitting just .200/.297/.419 on the year. The rest of the Mets’ infield — Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, David Wright — has been productive, but Wright is currently mired in a slump of his own and comes with durability concerns due to his ongoing bout with spinal stenosis. Yoenis Cespedes has been a stabilizing force in the middle of the Mets’ lineup, hitting an incredible .298/.381/.660 with an MLB-best 14 homers and an NL-best 35 RBIs. (His .660 slugging also leads the Senior Circuit.)
It’s unlikely that Conforto sees any immediate time at first base, as he lacks experience at the position, though if and when he does get a lengthier look there, the Mets could make some use of the Juan Lagares/Alejandro De Aza platoon that was expected to patrol center field before Cespedes re-signed. One name that is not in consideration is Double-A first baseman and top prospect Dominic Smith, tweets Carig. Collins says that Smith, who has just 47 games above the Class-A level under his belt, will not be coming up anytime soon. Rubin tweets that Wright, too, offered to play some first base in Duda’s absence, but Collins said a move across the diamond for the team captain is not a consideration, either.