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8/28/2014 11:17 P.M. ET

Wright back in lineup aiming to improve down stretch

NEW YORK -- David Wright's return to the lineup on Thursday brought with it a nugget of optimism for the Mets. Though the team knows Wright is still not completely healthy and isn't likely to be until next spring, the Mets hope he can at least salvage something out of the season's final month.

"A lot of it is leaving here feeling good about yourself," manager Terry Collins said. "We've all seen what David can do. He's had a tough year. He's had a very un-David-like year, and as we know in this game, that happens. You can't be great every day, every year. This is one of those years where he's had some struggles, but if he finishes strong, I think it'd be a real positive thing for him to go into the wintertime."

After taking batting practice on Thursday afternoon, Wright cleared the necessary medical hurdles required for him to play for the first time since Sunday. He said his stiff neck was feeling much better, even if his sore left shoulder remains less than 100 percent.

It was enough for Wright to begin the task of improving upon his .324 on-base percentage and .368 slugging mark, both career lows. But the Mets are still promising prudence with Wright, understanding the danger of the health issues that have undermined him in recent weeks.

"Because of what's happened, if his neck tightens up on him again he's going to say something," Collins said. "If it happens again, there's got to be something wrong. But he said he feels great. There's nothing at all. There are no remnants of the stiffness, so we'll see what happens."

Murphy's DL stint opens door for Herrera's callup

NEW YORK -- The Mets may have lost second baseman Daniel Murphy for the next two weeks, but they're replacing him with one of the organization's most heralded infield prospects.

Dilson Herrera will join the Mets before Friday's series opener against the Phillies, replacing Murphy, who is hitting the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf. An MRI taken Thursday revealed the strain, forcing Murphy to the DL retroactive to Monday.

"It's frustrating," Murphy said. "I was hoping it wasn't that bad, but it ended up being a little worse than I thought. It's always nice to stay off the DL, but we've got to be smart about it and get healthy, and it's not fair to the rest of the team to make them play shorthanded."

The injury does give the Mets their first look at Herrera, 20, who will jump from Double-A Binghamton straight to the Majors. The Mets' eighth-ranked player on MLB.com's Top 20 Prospects list, Herrera was hitting .333 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases in 60 games for Binghamton, following a midseason promotion from Class A St. Lucie. Along with reliever Vic Black, Herrera was one of two prospects the Mets received in a trade for Marlon Byrd and John Buck last August.

"He's starting to control the strike zone a little more in Binghamton," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson recently said of Herrera. "He's shown surprising power for his size and age. … His athleticism, his body type [allows him to hit for power]. He's aggressive and generates a lot of bat speed."

Capable of playing both middle-infield positions, Herrera spent most of his time at Binghamton at second base. It remains unclear how much playing time he will receive in New York, but if the Mets wanted someone to ride the bench, they could have recalled a player already on the 40-man roster. Instead, they selected the contract of Herrera, who boasts as much upside as any infielder in the organization.

"Usually when you see kids his age getting to this point, the tendency seems to be some guys being more pull hitters than anything else," Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez said in June. "What he does is have plate discipline and an ability to drive the ball the other way. That's what makes him successful."

Mets place Black on DL, activate Dice-K

NEW YORK -- Hoping to ease their roster strain after effectively playing their past two games with 21 men, the Mets on Thursday placed reliever Vic Black on the disabled list, activating right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Black received a right cervical epidural injection in his neck on Thursday, and the Mets expect him to need a few days to recover from it. Rather than wait for rosters to expand on Monday, the team activated Matsuzaka to ease the strain off some of its other relievers.

"At some point, we had to make a decision and we needed another arm," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We were trying to make it through to the end of the month with what we had, but it just didn't look realistic."

An MRI on Wednesday revealed that Black has a herniated disk in his neck, as well as bone spurs growing off multiple vertebrae. Both he and the Mets believe the injection, combined with a period of rest, will allow him to recover from the injury without surgical intervention.

Black said he "absolutely" expects to pitch again this season.

"I think the recovery will be [enough] far before the DL stint is up, but there's nothing wrong with extra rest to make sure," Black said after the Mets' 6-1 loss to the Braves Thursday.

Come October, Black said, a full six weeks of rest should resolve the issue for good.

The Mets also know firsthand that they must be cautious. Last season, Bobby Parnell underwent an extremely invasive procedure to replace a herniated disk in his own neck, before partially tearing the UCL in his right elbow upon his return. The Mets do not expect him back until at least next April.

"I think you've got to be very careful with him," manager Terry Collins said of Black. "One of the reasons why he finally told us his neck was bothering him was we approached him because his velocity was down so much. Unbeknownst to us, his neck had been bothering him."

Matsuzaka, 33, was on the DL since July 26 with right elbow inflammation. He had been in roster limbo since firing five scoreless innings in his last rehab start for Class A Brooklyn on Aug. 21. In nine starts and 19 relief appearances for the Mets this year, Matsuzaka compiled a 3-3 record with a 3.87 ERA, serving as a starter, closer, setup man and long reliever.

In the ninth inning Thursday, Matsuzaka allowed three runs on four hits while recording two outs.

Mets re-up with Vegas affiliate for two years

NEW YORK -- The Mets and the Las Vegas 51s, the club's Triple-A affiliate, announced a new, two-year Player Development Contract on Thursday that will continue the teams' relationship through the 2016 season.

There had been some speculation that the Mets would seek a partnership with a different Triple-A franchise, likely one in the International League, because of logistical issues regarding getting players from Nevada to Queens or wherever the Mets happened to be playing on the road in the event of a callup.

With Rochester re-upping with the Twins this week, however, the Mets stayed with Vegas, just as they have since 2012.

"There were definitely potential options to go elsewhere," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "They've made some improvements. Their field there is much better than it was. There are some things that need to be done, but in terms of getting players in and out, if you're going to be that far away that's probably the best place to be given the number of flights that come in and out of there.

"We certainly didn't want to be someplace else in the Pacific Coast League. So we're happy to be back there."

Manager Terry Collins indicated earlier this month that the significant distance between Vegas and New York is an issue.

"We worry about [the travel] every time we call somebody up. Absolutely," Collins said. "When your Triple-A team is that far away and they do take those red eyes, sometimes they get here at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. The majority of them will say, 'Yeah, I slept a little bit on the plane.' You've traveled. You don't sleep well on planes."

Worth noting

• With three days left before Major League Baseball's waiver Trade Deadline, Alderson said "there's a lot less going on than some people speculate" regarding starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who reportedly cleared waivers this week. The Mets can trade Colon to any team.

• Prior to Thursday's first pitch, the Mets presented Jacob deGrom with his National League Rookie of the Month award for July and his NL Player of the Week award for July 21-27. DeGrom went 4-1 with a 1.39 ERA over five July starts.

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