Part of the banged-up brigade for the New York Mets last year, both Duda and Wheeler said Wednesday they’re making progress in their return from injuries.
Duda resumed full baseball activities after being slowed by back and hip issues. After a morning workout, the power-hitting first baseman said he wasn’t sure when he’ll make his spring training debut in a game.
“I don’t want to say two days, three days, then it be four or five, but we’ll take it day by day,” Duda said.
Duda had been sidelined at the plate since last week, when he took too many swings in batting practice. He received cortisone shots in both hips, waited a couple of days for them to take effect and was restricted to fielding grounders.
The 31-year-old Duda hit .229 with seven home runs last year while being limited to just 47 games because of a stress fracture in his back.
“Today (is) a normal day,” he said. “We took a little bit of time because we were afforded that luxury. We’ll get back at it today and see how it goes.”
“It’s nice to come to the field and get to play baseball. I’ve been doing defensive stuff. Today is the first day, and we’ll see where I’m at,” he said. “I felt great (early in camp). It was just a spasm, so we treated it very gingerly and kind of took our time. There’s no issue.”
Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery two years ago, has been gradually working his way back up to speed in an attempt to return to the starting rotation. He is competing with fellow right-handers Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, both of whom pitched well last season as the rotation broke down, for the final starting spot.
“It felt good getting back out there facing batters. It’s another step closer,” Wheeler said after a live batting practice that featured approximately 20 to 25 pitches. “(I didn’t throw) 100 percent, but the feel was good, pitches were good. Still a little fine-tuning on the curveball, but that will come. I’m happy where I’m at right now.”
Manager Terry Collins said earlier in the week that the next step was for Wheeler to pitch in a simulated game with reliever Fernando Salas. The plan is to get Wheeler into a game after the Mets are off next Tuesday.
Of the other four starters in the rotation — Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz — only opening day starter Syndergaard, was able to avoid surgery in 2016. Subsequently, the health of the Mets’ starting pitchers is a focal point as March begins.
The rotation will begin to take shape Friday when Syndergaard pitches at home against Houston and deGrom goes Saturday. Harvey, returning from season-ending thoraric outlet syndrome surgery last July, will pitch Sunday while Matz starts Monday.
DeGrom missed the final month of last season with an elbow injury. Matz made just 22 starts due to bone spurs in his elbow and shoulder pain.
NOTES: 3B David Wright (shoulder impingement) is getting a second opinion. His status for opening day is in doubt. … INF Phillip Evans provided the Mets’ only run in a 6-1 loss to St. Louis in Jupiter by homering off LHP Austin Gomber in the ninth inning. Evans won the Eastern League batting title last year, hitting .330 at Double-A Binghamton … OF Michael Conforto hit two singles and raised his spring average to .538. Top prospect SS Amed Rosario also went 2 for 3 and is up to .364. …. Mets pitchers gave up six runs, but only one was earned.
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