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Walker takes reps at third base in rehab

Mets looking to protect second baseman's health when he returns
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

SAN DIEGO -- Neil Walker's rehabilitation from a torn left hamstring took on an added wrinkle Wednesday, when Walker started at third base -- not second -- for Triple-A Las Vegas. Though Walker is unlikely to spend much time at the position when he returns from the disabled list, the Mets have two reasons for giving him reps there now.

The first is that the Mets could lose Asdrubal Cabrera to a trade any day, sapping them of some depth at the hot corner. The second is that they are searching for ways to keep the 31-year-old Walker's hamstrings and knees healthy.

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SAN DIEGO -- Neil Walker's rehabilitation from a torn left hamstring took on an added wrinkle Wednesday, when Walker started at third base -- not second -- for Triple-A Las Vegas. Though Walker is unlikely to spend much time at the position when he returns from the disabled list, the Mets have two reasons for giving him reps there now.

The first is that the Mets could lose Asdrubal Cabrera to a trade any day, sapping them of some depth at the hot corner. The second is that they are searching for ways to keep the 31-year-old Walker's hamstrings and knees healthy.

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"We just want to protect ourselves," manager Terry Collins said. "We want to make sure we cover all the bases. We talked to Neil about it and he was fine with it."

Sidelined since June 15 due to a torn hamstring, Walker began his rehab assignment Saturday at Las Vegas. The Mets initially hoped that Walker might return in time to help them in San Diego, but he is now scheduled to meet the club this weekend in Seattle.

Once Walker returns, he should slot back in as the Mets' everyday second baseman, with Cabrera, Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera all taking reps at third. But the Mets will offer plenty of rest to Walker, who missed the final two months of last season due to back surgery. In 60 games this year, Walker is batting .270 with nine home runs.

Walker has played 15 career Major League games at third -- his primary position as a Pirates prospect last decade -- but none since 2010. If he proves adept at the position, Walker could draw increased interest from contending teams looking to make a waiver trade in August. Walker will become a free agent after the season.

Reinforcements coming: Right-hander Robert Gsellman is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Binghamton. Gsellman, who went on the disabled list June 28 with a strained left hamstring, was 5-5 with a 6.16 ERA prior to his injury. He could slot into either the rotation or the bullpen upon his return.

Déjà vu: Seth Lugo continues to earn accolades for his curveball, which has led the Statcast™ spin rate leaderboard each of the past two seasons. Need further proof of the pitch's effectiveness? Until Hunter Renfroe took him deep in the second inning Tuesday, Lugo had not allowed a home run on a curveball in his entire big league career -- a total of 313 curves.

Lugo later clarified that, until last season at Triple-A Las Vegas, he hadn't given up a homer on his curveball in his entire life, including high school and college.

Now, he's allowed two. The person to snap Lugo's streak last year in the Pacific Coast League? Renfroe, of course.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

New York Mets, Chris Flexen