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09/12/12 9:32 PM ET

Duda gets start at first base in series finale

NEW YORK -- Lucas Duda showed such promise in 2011 that the hype surrounding him was at a new high by the time Spring Training rolled around this past February. But halfway through the 2012 season, his on-field performance had sunk so low the Mets saw no other choice than to option him to Triple-A.

When he was optioned in late July, Duda was batting just .241 (307 at-bats) with 44 RBIs and 94 strikeouts. In 301 total at-bats last season, Duda finished with a .292 average and 50 RBIs.

But as sluggish as his bat was, it was the struggles in right field that ultimately landed him in the Minors. Mets manager Terry Collins repeatedly stressed patiently waiting for his offense to come around, but his performance on the field made it difficult.

Since Duda rejoined the team last month, he has played mostly left field -- his most comfortable outfield position. But with the focus on getting him as many late-season at-bats as possible, starting him at first base -- as Collins did on Wednesday against the Nationals -- will become a more regular occurrence.

"The one thing we've got to do is start seeing Lucas Duda on a daily basis," Collins said. "I think it's important this time of year to take a look at some guys that certainly have a chance to be in the middle of your lineup in the future, so we've got to see what we can get out of them."

Wednesday marked Duda's first appearance at first base this season, though he played two games there during his midseason stint with Triple-A Buffalo. He started 37 games at the position last season as a result of Ike Davis' injured ankle.

Duda also posted his most impressive offensive numbers as a first baseman last season, batting .316 (42-for-133) with 20 RBIs.

Murphy out of starting lineup with sore back

NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy was a late scratch from Wednesday's lineup with a sore lower back, which the second baseman downplayed prior to the game.

Slated to play second base and bat second in the Mets' original lineup, Murphy was scratched several hours before first pitch. He did, however, participate in a series of fielding drills and said he fully expects to return on Friday. Ronny Cedeno took Murphy's place in the lineup, batting second.

"I don't plan on this keeping me out any longer than a day," said Murphy, who is batting .292 with five home runs in 136 games. "We'll get it to quiet down."

Murphy said he woke up with the discomfort on Wednesday morning. When he alerted manager Terry Collins of the issue, Collins suggested he sit out Wednesday's finale against the Nationals. The Mets have an off-day Thursday, giving Murphy two full days of rest before opening a series in Milwaukee this weekend.

"It's just a little soreness," Murphy said. "I probably could play, but we erred on the side of safety with this one."

The Mets had to dig a little deeper Wednesday, as Cedeno left after the fifth with a tight right hamstring. Jordany Valdespin replaced Cedeno at second.

Mets, Sand Gnats sign on for two more years

NEW YORK -- The Mets have renewed their player development contract with Class A Savannah for two more years, the teams announced Wednesday. The renewal will keep Savannah as a Mets affiliate through the 2014 season.

Notable Sand Gnats alumni include pitchers Collin McHugh and Josh Edgin, both of whom made their big league debuts this season. As a Mets affiliate, the Gnats won South Atlantic League first-half championships in 2010 and 2011.

"We're pleased to have the New York Mets back with us to continue our partnership and the development of future Major Leaguers here in Savannah," Sand Gnats president John Katz said in a statement. "The Mets have been fabulous partners over the past six years, both in providing strong teams and in helping make a positive impact in the Savannah community. We're looking forward to two more years together."

But not everything is status quo within New York's farm system. It is widely expected that Triple-A Buffalo will not renew its contract with the organization, leaving the Mets to search for a Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.