Change of plans: Lucas Duda to stay in majors for now

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UPDATE: It looks like Pedro Beato’s poor performance tonight saved Duda from a demotion. Beato gave up four runs over one-third of an inning in the 10th inning tonight against the Nationals, after which he was sent to the minors.

9:30 PM: The Mets need to clear a spot on their roster for top prospect right-hander Matt Harvey, who will make his major league debut Thursday against the Diamondbacks. Many speculated that the struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis would be the odd-man out, but Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record hears that Lucas Duda will be demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.

Duda earned a shot at the starting right field job after hitting .292 with 10 homers and an .852 OPS in 100 games last season, but he has delivered a disappointing .241/.335/.391 batting line to go along with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and a .726 OPS across 355 plate appearances in 2012. He’s hitting just .140 (6-for-43) with one homer and 16 strikeouts this month. Making matters worse, he has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in the majors.

While the Mets try to get Duda back on track in the minors, they appear ready to give more playing time to the hot-hitting Jordany Valdespin. The 24-year-old entered tonight’s action batting .299/.330/.586 with six home runs, 20 RBI, four stolen bases and a .916 OPS over his first 92 plate appearances in the majors.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.