WASHINGTON -- Lucas Duda landed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back Monday, forcing New York Mets officials to become creative in order to plug the hole at first base.
Manager Terry Collins indicated that outfielder Michael Conforto will begin working out at the position. Collins said even third baseman David Wrightwas receptive to moving across the diamond, although that is not in the immediate plans.
Duda had a follow-up examination with team doctor David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan on Monday and subsequently was placed on the DL. Collins estimated that Duda could be sidelined six weeks or more.
"There's no real timetable," Collins said. "It'll be a while. I guess there are some exercises he can do, but nothing baseball related for a while. We're looking at a fairly long period before he's going to be able to get back and do some baseball stuff."
The Mets promoted utility player Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. Left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Wright dealt with a stress fracture in his lower back during the 2011 season. He tried to play through the injury for a month before it was diagnosed, then landed on the DL in May and missed two full months. Wright has cited that stress fracture as one reason he might have developed the spinal stenosis that is ailing him.
"You have to be conservative with it. You have to take your time with it," Wright said. "You have to make sure that you're meticulous with your rehab. It's something where you're talking about a bone being damaged. There's going to be a time, if it was anything like mine, where you can't do anything. You have to be very aware of your movements on a daily basis. You have to do things that keep that area stabilized so the bone can heal itself. And then, after that, is when the rehab comes into play. That's when you really have to stay on top of it. It's pretty boring. It's a little long. It's monotonous. But you have to stick with it because, as me being somewhat of a case study now, these things can kind of creep on you later in your career. And I felt like I did my rehab as good as I possibly could have."
Eric Campbell will start at first base Monday against the Washington Nationals, but he is a stopgap. As soon as this weekend, Wilmer Flores could take over as the primary first baseman. Flores is due to begin a rehab assignment for a left hamstring strain Tuesday with Double-A Binghamton and is eligible to be activated from the disabled list as soon as Friday.
In order to have the best lineup available, the Mets have considered several other options. Conforto has never played first base in a game at any level, but he will begin taking ground balls at the position. He had limited experience at third base in college at Oregon State and also worked out at first base there.
"They always had me taking ground balls," Conforto said about college. "They always had me make sure I was available in case there was an emergency situation, or if something wasn't working out with one of our infielders. I was always taking ground balls at third, shortstop, first base. So I've been in there. I've practiced there. Just not a whole lot of game experience. ... I'll give it my best. I'll do what I can to prepare myself for that if that becomes an option."
Conforto was unable to begin working out at first base before Monday's game because the tarp was on the field at Nationals Park.
Collins acknowledged approaching Wright on Sunday to gauge his interest level in first base.
Wright told Collins he would do whatever is best for the team. Using Wright is not in the Mets' immediate plans, though. Wright's pregame workload is limited because of his spinal stenosis, so doing the extra work to get up to speed at first base is not practical. Playing first base also requires holding the runner and other responsibilities that might be taxing on Wright's back.
"I said that my entire career: Whatever this organization, whatever the team needs me to do, I'll be on board as long as I can do it and can help," Wright said. "With that being said, besides the handful of times that we played the shift, that's about as many groundballs as I've ever taken on that side of the infield."
Wright said there has been "no follow-up" on the first-base conversation since Collins initially broached the topic Sunday.
"I just made him aware that whatever the team needs me to do that I'd be more than happy to do," Wright said. "I'm sure it would be a little weird. And I'm assuming there was no follow-up because I'm not sure if it's truly being considered."
The Mets also considered promoting second-base prospect Dilson Herrera and shifting Neil Walker to first base. That has been dismissed for the short term because Walker has never played first base, either.
Collins also said 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith is not ready for a promotion to the majors. Smith, drafted out of high school, is only 20 years old and has less than two months of Double-A experience under his belt.
It also might be sensible for the Mets to at least explore trading for a first baseman, although it is early in the season for many outside options to be available.
With the Atlanta Braves already flailing, perhaps reuniting with Kelly Johnson would be an option.
Mets 1B Lucas Duda out at least 6 weeks with stress fracture in back
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