MIAMI — Mets first baseman Lucas Duda is slowly making his way back from the stress fracture in his back that has sidelined him since May 23.
“In the next couple of weeks, it should be healed and I’ll be ready to go on a rehab assignment and get back here as soon as I can,” said Duda, who joined the club in Miami, which is driving distance from the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie.
Duda has been running, throwing, and tracking pitches, slowly building up baseball activity as he goes.
“I want to get back as soon as I can, but it’s a process,” said Duda, who was hitting .231 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 39 games prior to his injury. “Right now, everything feels good. It’s just a matter of time.”
Duda, 30, refused to use his back as an explanation for his performance at the start of the season. He refused to say how long he had been dealing with a back issue prior to his diagnosis.
Said Duda: “That seems like an easy crutch and excuse that I don’t want to get into.”
Center of attention
Michael Conforto made his debut in centerfield against the Marlins on Saturday, when he pinch-hit in the sixth and then remained in the game.
It was his pro debut at the position, which he must learn if he wants to stay in the lineup, with Yoenis Cespedes now anchored to leftfield where he can cover less ground and ease some pressure on his tender right quad.
“I’m completely prepared to go out there,” Conforto said before the game.
For the second straight day, Conforto was held out of the starting lineup, with former Gold Glover Juan Lagares manning centerfield in spacious Marlins Park.
“It’s taking too big a chance,” manager Terry Collins said before moving Conforto into center with the Mets down four runs.
Zack Wheeler could graduate to facing batters sometime this week, Collins said. The righthander has been throwing bullpen sessions in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.