Mets lose Duda to lower-back stress fracture

No timetable for slugging first baseman's return; utility man Kelly joins team

Mets lose Duda to lower-back stress fracture

WASHINGTON -- Quietly, often lost amid the shuffle of his more famous teammates, Lucas Duda has spent the past three seasons as one of the Mets' most valuable sluggers. They will now proceed without their starting first baseman for weeks or even months, placing Duda on the disabled list Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back. There is no timetable for his return.

"It will be a while," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We're looking at a fairly long period before he's going to be able to get back and do some baseball stuff."

10 first-base options for Mets with Duda out

To replace Duda on the active roster, the Mets purchased the contract of utility man Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas, designating pitcher Dario Alvarez for assignment to clear 40-man roster space.

In the short-term, Eric Campbell will start at first base, as he has for much of the past week. In the middle-term, the Mets expect Wilmer Flores back from the disabled list as soon as Friday, at which point he should have first crack at the everyday role. In the long-term, the Mets are considering more radical options, including moving third baseman David Wright or outfielder Michael Conforto to first. Acquiring someone from outside the organization is also a possibility.

Those knots will untangle themselves in time. Prior to Monday's series opener at Nationals Park, the Mets were still busy lamenting the loss of one of their top power hitters.

"He's a huge piece of our team," Collins said. "This guy is a legitimate big bat in the middle of our lineup. So somebody's got to step up, and pick up some of that load."

Duda, 30, leads the Mets with 64 home runs since the start of the 2014 season. But he was batting just .231 with a .297 on-base percentage in 39 games this year, in the midst of a 7-for-42 (.167) slump since his last homer. Feeling some discomfort in his lower back, Duda missed two games early last week, returned to play in a pair, then rested again Saturday and Sunday. At that point, Duda went for a battery of tests at Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery, where team orthopedist Dr. David Altchek on Monday confirmed the diagnosis of a lower-back stress fracture.

The Mets do not know how Duda injured himself. But they do know it is the same injury that sidelined Wright for two months in 2011, and that Wright believes played a role in his development of spinal stenosis.

"You're talking about a bone being damaged," Wright said. "You have to be very aware of your movements on a daily basis. You have to do things that keep that area stabilized so that the bone can heal itself. Then after that is when the rehab comes into play, and you have to really stay on top of it. It's pretty boring. It's long. It's monotonous. But you have to stick with it because -- me being somewhat of a case study now -- these things can kind of creep on you later in your career."

Kelly, 27, was leading the Pacific Coast League with a .391 average and a .478 on-base percentage. An eight-year Minor League veteran, the switch-hitting Kelly earned the call over right-handed teammate T.J. Rivera, who ranks second in the PCL in hitting, and reigning Las Vegas Player of the Year Travis Taijeron.

"I'm just kind of taking it all in right now," Kelly said. "Once the games get going, I'll just hopefully play well and try to be as confident as I can. I'm confident in myself that I've been prepared for the last seven and a half years."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.