ATLANTA -- Reversing course on last week's alternative defensive assignments, Mets manager Terry Collins scrawled out an entirely new lineup for Monday's series opener against the Braves.
Daniel Murphy, who spent a one-week tour of duty at first base, returned to his usual position at second. Meanwhile, Lucas Duda, who has worked tirelessly in the outfield for the past two years, shifted to his natural position at first.
"We just thought that's where he plays the best," Collins said of Duda. "He's excited about being back over there, which I think is a very positive thing. Dan wants to play second -- he's happy he's going back to second. We'll just see if it transforms into a productive lineup."
That alignment allowed the Mets to give Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares simultaneous playing time in left and center field, respectively, all while keeping right fielder Marlon Byrd's hot bat in the lineup.
As recently as last week, Collins said he would not consider moving Duda to first. But Jordany Valdespin's unsuccessful run as the everyday second baseman prompted the manager to change his mind.
"You're allowed to change," Collins said. "There's nothing etched in stone. You're allowed to make changes and you're allowed to make decisions that you think are in the best interests of the ballclub. Last week, we made decisions we thought were in the best interests of the club. They didn't work. So as I ask our players to adjust, I've got to do the same thing. I've got to make some changes."
A college first baseman, Duda did not begin playing the outfield regularly until his first professional season in 2007. He did not become a full-time outfielder until 2011, taking over in right after the Mets traded Carlos Beltran.
Since then, Duda has spent countless hours working to improve his outfield play, which most scouts still classify as decidedly below-average. At first base, the Mets hope that not only can Duda's defense become an asset, but that the assignment will also allow him to concentrate more fully on his hitting.
The catch? Putting Duda at first base may seem like something of a slight to Ike Davis, who has struggled since his demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas. But Collins said that once Davis returns, Duda will simply shift back to left.
"Obviously, I know it's Ike's position," Duda said. "I'm just there to help out the team anyway I can. I don't really feel like there's any awkwardness."