DENVER -- Unwilling to test outfielder Lucas Duda's stiff back in near-freezing temperatures, the Mets used an alternative outfield alignment for Thursday's game at Coors Field. With Duda on the bench, Jordany Valdespin started in left field, Marlon Byrd made his season debut in center field and Mike Baxter started in right.
Though Valdespin has seen most of his outfield reps in center this year, manager Terry Collins feared overexposing him in Coors Field's vast center field. Playing right in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Valdespin took two awkward routes to balls, resulting in a double and a triple.
"Putting him in center field, I think, is an injustice to him here," Collins said, "as tough as it is here."
Compounding the issue is that the Mets have not taken batting practice -- and, by extension, outfield practice -- since Saturday. Valdespin, who had never played the outfield at Coors before this week, did not have a chance to track balls here.
"It comes down to this park … this is a tough place to play the outfield," Collins said. "I'd rather have the experienced guy in center field, so that's why I decided to put Marlon out there."
As for Duda, the outfielder "was still a little stiff" after leaving Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader in the fifth inning, according to Collins. The Mets will revisit the issue amidst warmer temperatures Friday in New York.
"The pain wasn't too bad, but there's a process that we want to make sure he goes through before he's ready," Collins said. "Twenty-two degrees is not really the time to test it."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.