Ducks' Alejandro De Aza runs the bases on May 13,...

Ducks' Alejandro De Aza runs the bases on May 13, 2022. Credit: Tatiana Lopez/Long Island Ducks

Alejandro De Aza knows that the major leagues is probably in his rearview mirror. He’s 38 and hasn’t played in a big league game in nearly five years. So, then why did the former Mets outfielder drive 11 1/2 hours, with minimal stopping, from his home in Miami to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to join the Ducks last week?

“I was thinking about just staying home,” said De Aza, whose Venezuelan winter season ended in February. “But I got bored at home, and I came back.”

The pull of baseball is undeniable, and the fact that De Aza was standing on a drizzly Central Islip field on Friday afternoon, instead of somewhere in South Beach, is proof that the pull is deep.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “This is part of me. Baseball is part of me. I have to be on the field.”

At least at the Atlantic League level, De Aza’s still a major commodity.

De Aza, who signed with the Ducks on Tuesday, hit .322 with 11 home runs and 71 RBIs in 108 games with Lancaster last season. He slashed .330/.414/.489 in 45 games in Venezuela this winter.

“I’ve known De Aza for a while,” Ducks manager Wally Backman said. “The decision to bring him in was pretty simple — he’s still a really good player. He brings some leadership to the club. I think he’s going to be a big asset for us.”

De Aza played in 130 games with the Mets in 2016 and slashed .205/.297/.321 with six home runs and 25 RBIs.  He also played for the White Sox, Orioles, Marlins, Nationals, Giants, and Red Sox in a 10-year major league career.

“I’m not thinking about the major leagues anymore,” De Aza said. “Everybody knows now that I’m old now. I’m just having fun and keeping playing until I can’t. When I can’t play anymore, I’ll just find myself a job as a coach or something.”

The signing caused the Ducks to move on from outfielder Daniel Fields, at least in the short term. Fields, who played parts of four seasons on Long Island, was traded to the Charleston Dirty Birds for a player to be named later. The trade was made, in part, because Backman didn’t see Fields breaking the outfield logjam in the immediate future. Even without De Aza, Fields only had 25 plate appearances in seven games through the first three weeks of the season.

“I didn’t want to trade (him), but he wasn’t going to get as much playing time here,” Backman said. “We traded him to Charleston where he’s going to get more at-bats and it’s going to be better for him.”

Backman didn’t rule out bringing Fields back later in the season, when an opening will almost invariably present itself. In fact, the player to be named later might be Fields himself, Backman said.

Parry to DL

The Ducks placed starting pitcher Bennett Parry on the disabled list weekend, retroactive to May 5 with what Backman described as "arm fatigue." He’s expected to miss between three to four weeks, Backman said.

 Parry returned to the Ducks this season after two years away from professional baseball — the product of a pandemic-cancelled 2020 followed by a short retirement.

“It’s really not an injury, it’s just a matter of building up arm-strength,” Backman said. “He’s just weak right now and has to build up more arm strength. He hasn’t played for a few years, so that’s part of it. He’s going to try to build up arm strength. It wasn’t a normal spring training. Spring training is usually six weeks, and we have two. It just wasn’t enough time for Bennett to get ready.” 

Parry, who was dominant for the Ducks during abbreviated stints in 2018 and 2019, is 0-1 with an 8.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts in three starts this season.

First pitch Carton

WFAN’s Craig Carton will throw out the first pitch on Sunday before the 1:35 p.m. game against the High Point Rockers.

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