Duda Abides Making Mets' Roster On Short Term Basis





NEW YORK—Corner outfielder Lucas Duda made the Mets' Opening Day roster, but he knew his time in the big leagues would be limited—at least this time.

The 25-year-old made the team only because Jason Bay tweaked a muscle in his ribcage during the final days of spring training.

Still, Duda relished lining up along the foul line for the season-opening introductions, first in Miami for the first game of the year, and then again a week later for the Mets home opener at Citi Field.

"It's pretty special," Duda said. "It's my first Opening Day. Hopefully, it's not my last." That's not likely, not with a bat that has quickly gained favor with Mets management.

New York optioned Duda, who started 2-for-17 with a double, to Triple-A Buffalo following the season's third series. They demoted him, while also designating Blaine Boyer for assignment, in a series of transactions that allowed them to call up righthanded relievers Ryota Igarashi and Jason Isringhausen.

Participating in big league spring-training camp this year, Duda belted two homers and batted 18-for-71 (.254).

No stranger to slow starts, Duda began his major league career last September by going 1-for-33, before finishing with a flourish: 16-for-51 (.314) with four homers and five doubles. He said that former Mets manager Jerry Manuel never lost faith in him even during the depths of his slump.

Current manager Terry Collins, who served as minor league field coordinator last year, said the ball makes a different sound coming off Duda's bat. He won the organization's player of the year award in 2010 for batting .304/.398/.569 and leading the system with 23 homers and 87 RBIs.

"You have to prove yourself every year," Duda said, "whether it's to Terry or the general manager or the fans."

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets received immediate returns from 2010 first-round righthander Matt Harvey, who opened his career with 11 scoreless innings for high Class A St. Lucie. In two starts, he struck out 17, walked four and allowed eight hits.

• After juggling roles and club assignments last season, righthander Jenrry Mejia settled into a starting role with Buffalo, tossing six scoreless, three-hit innings in his 2011 debut. He struck out six Syracuse batters, walking two and not allowing an extra-base hit.