NEW YORK (AP) – Mike Piazza was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a broken bone in his left hand, leaving the New York Mets without another key player as they try to make a push for the playoffs.

The move was made retroactive to Wednesday. To replace Piazza on the roster, the Mets purchased catcher Mike DiFelice’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

Piazza was hit by a foul tip at the base of his glove hand, below the thumb, on Tuesday night against Pittsburgh. He caught one more inning before leaving that game and has not played since.

“You get hit in a spot like that, there’s nothing you can do. It’s just been really painful,” he said. “It’s just bad luck.”

Piazza’s hand was still sore and swollen before Sunday’s game against Washington, and he sounded disappointed about having to go on the DL.

“It’s just obvious that the progress wasn’t made to push it any longer, with the roster situation,” he said. “Obviously, I’m frustrated, but the key is obviously for this ballclub to keep rolling and for myself to get as healthy as I can to help this team.”

Playing perhaps his final season with the Mets, Piazza will be eligible to return on Sept. 1 – but he might not be ready by then. And when he does come back, it could take time to regain his stroke.

The 12-time All-Star is batting .259 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs. He plans to travel with the team on its upcoming trip.

“The only thing that’s bad about the injury is you’ve got to get your timing back. He can’t swing a bat,” manager Willie Randolph said.

Backup catcher Ramon Castro has played well in Piazza’s absence, and will continue to see regular action. DiFelice probably will get a start or two on the trip, Randolph said.

DiFelice was with the Mets earlier this season, going 0-for-8 while Castro was hurt.

“He’s a veteran guy,” Randolph said. “He knows how to handle a pitching staff.”

The Mets began the day fifth in the NL wild-card race, but only two games out of the top spot. They also are missing Gold Glove right fielder Mike Cameron, who could be sidelined for the rest of the season while he recovers from a collision with teammate Carlos Beltran on Aug. 11 in San Diego.

Cameron broke both cheekbones and his nose in the collision and underwent surgery in San Diego. He also has a mild concussion.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz also is on the DL with a sore lower back.

DiFelice arrived at Shea Stadium in time for Sunday’s game, but he was empty-handed. The airline misplaced his luggage, which included his catcher’s equipment.

“They were charging me $180 for two extra bags, and they lose them,” he said, laughing. “That’s good stuff.”

If needed, DiFelice will borrow some equipment.

“You hate walking in here unprepared, but it’s OK for a couple of hours. Hopefully, I’m good enough to catch with any catcher’s mitt,” he said. “I guess it’s better than me not making it here.”

First baseman-catcher Mike Jacobs was recalled Wednesday from Double-A Binghamton to make sure Castro was not the only healthy backstop on the roster. Jacobs’ luggage also was lost en route to New York.

Notes: The Mets signed C Alberto Castillo to a minor league contract and assigned him to Norfolk. Castillo, who played for the Mets from 1995-98, was released by Kansas City on Aug. 6.

AP-ES-08-21-05 1444EDT

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