CHICAGO -- Lucas Duda's timetable to return from a lower-back stress fracture gained clarity this week, when the Mets first baseman began light baseball activities for the first time since May. Duda began running and playing catch Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with plans to add additional activities over the coming weeks.
If all goes well, Duda could begin a Minor League rehab assignment by early August, though that will depend upon the pace at which he increases baseball activities. The Mets will not rush Duda, who has been sidelined since May 20. Between that day and Monday, he had been limited to riding a stationary bike.
In the interim, the Mets traded for veteran first baseman James Loney, who is hitting .284 with four home runs in his first 40 games. Duda was batting .231 with seven homers in 39 games, but led the Mets with 57 home runs from 2014-15 -- 11 more than any teammate.
When Duda returns, it could make for a difficult decision regarding Loney, who would become redundant as a second left-handed-hitting first baseman. But much can happen between now and then; Duda will likely need to spend two weeks on a rehab assignment once he is ready to play, shifting his best-case return date back to late August. At that point, the Mets could potentially wait to make a decision until rosters expand on Sept. 1.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com 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.