PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The leg is the new oblique. At least, that's the case at Mets camp, where a rash of lower leg injuries has thwarted manager Terry Collins' plans to make critical roster decisions.
The team dealt with a similar outbreak last spring, when David Wright was among several players to miss time with an oblique issue. But this season, the Mets have lost their legs.
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Second baseman Daniel Murphy became the latest to deal with a leg issue, missing Thursday's 7-6 walk-off win against the Braves with calf soreness. He has not played since Sunday and won't return to action until Saturday at the earliest.
"It's unfortunate to be a little beat up but I can't control that," said Murphy, who missed almost all of spring training last season with an oblique injury. "I can just control getting healthy."
Collins had limited Murphy's action early this spring to protect him from injury, a tactic that proved futile.
The injury bug has also thrown a wrench in the planned competition at first base, where Ike Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (hamstring) had been sidelined for nearly three weeks. "It felt good to get out there and barrel up some balls," said Davis, who returned to action Thursday and went 0-for-3.
Davis is scheduled to be the designated hitter Friday against the Twins, when Duda is also scheduled to make his return after going 0-for-6 in a minor-league game Thursday.
Still, Collins faces a tricky situation, forced to divide playing time for the rest of camp. Aside from Sunday's split-squad game, Collins must choose either Davis or Duda to play first base, with the other starting at DH or getting at-bats in the minors.
The Mets have a decision to make at first base for Opening Day, and they must make it in just nine days.
"That's the amount of time and that's the amount of time we'll use," said general manager Sandy Alderson, who indicated that both Davis and Duda could land on the Opening Day roster. "I think you have to be a little more cautious and not do something that has forever implications."
Of course, not only do the Mets face a time crunch, but they must come up with a way to make their decision at first base. "Right now," Collins said, "it's probably going to be the healthiest."
Over the last few years, Alderson said the Mets have tried to be mindful about overworking players. But for the second straight season, they have been besieged by injuries.
Even Duda and Ruben Tejada, who both spent a large chunk of their winter at a Michigan conditioning camp, have both missed time with leg injuries. Alderson said the latest rash of injuries is a cause for concern.
"Any time you have a cluster of injuries of that type, you have to ask yourself why perhaps they've occurred," he said. "But we've had hamstrings, we've had calves. We have to look at our active warm-up. We have to look at the volume of other activity we do."