Sep 27

Matz Done For Year; What Took So Long?

It wasn’t too long ago the Mets boasted having the best young staff in the sport, one that would return them to the World Series. With the postseason a week away – with no assurances of them getting there – four of the five are done for the season because of surgery.

MATZ:  To have surgery. (AP)

   MATZ: To have surgery. (AP)

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported today – later confirmed by several media outlets – Steven Matz will be shut down for the remainder of the season to undergo surgery almost immediately on a bone spur in his left elbow. Matz is also down with an impingement in his shoulder, but surgery is not planned for that injury.

What took Matz so long to elect to have surgery? The 25-year-old Matz has had the spur for much of the season, with GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisting it was a “pain tolerance issue” and he couldn’t risk further injury.

However, it hasn’t been addressed whether the shoulder impingement irritating the rotator cuff was caused by an altering of Matz’s mechanics caused by the pain in his elbow. It’s worth exploring, especially considering the Mets’ history of handling injuries.

Matz hasn’t pitched since mid-August. Surgery should have been performed then, and possibly on his shoulder, also, to give him the maximum time for recovery and rehab. The current timetable is a three-month recovery period, which means he won’t pick up a ball until January.

Will he really have enough time? Had this been done a month or two ago, there wouldn’t be any doubt.

I would have thought with Matt Harvey out for the year (to remove a rib and alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome) and Zack Wheeler (ulnar nerve in elbow) that to hedge their bets they would have encouraged Matz to have the surgery weeks ago – at least when the shoulder issue surfaced. Instead, the last six weeks have been squandered.

Making this even more disturbing is Jacob deGrom had surgery last week to repair the ulnar nerve in his elbow. Also, Noah Syndergaard has been bothered by an elbow bone spur issue for several months. The Mets are saying surgery isn’t planned for him, but wouldn’t they want to get it addressed sooner than later?

With the others easing their way back next spring, the last thing the Mets would want is surgery for Syndergaard.

Fortunately for the Mets, they remain in the race because of Bartolo Colon, who has been pitching with a foot injury (he left Monday’s game after 2.1 innings), and the Band-Aid of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

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Aug 01

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bullpen Blows Game As Collins Overmanages

Blame this on the Mets’ bullpen and their continued inability to hit with RISP.

The Mets were poised for their second come-from-behind victory in as many games when Matt Reynolds hit a three-run homer in the sixth.

It wasn’t to be when Mets manager Terry Collins over-managed by bringing Jerry Blevins in to start the eighth inning instead of going with Addison Reed, who was flawless in July in hold situations, but traditionally has problems bringing him in with runners on base.

GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

     GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

“They are pretty frustrating,” Collins said of the bullpen meltdown. “But it’s baseball.”

The bullpen let the game get away and the 6-5 loss to the Yankees in 10 innings dropped the Mets to 54-51.

Blevins walked Brett Gardner and struck out Jacoby Ellsbury. Enter Reed, who struck out Mark Teixeira, but gave up a single to Brian McCann to put runners on the corners. After a wild pitch put pinch-runner Ronald Torryes on second, Didi Gregorius tied the game with a two-run bunt single to left.

Playing shorthanded in the bullpen, Seth Lugo relieved Jeurys Familia to start the tenth. Lugo walked Ellsbury and gave up a single to Teixeira. Pinch-hitter Ben Gamel bunted but Lugo’s throw to third was not in time. (Blame this on catcher Rene Rivera, who signaled Lugo to go to third).

You knew this was going to end badly, and it did when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to right.

The Mets threatened against Dellin Betances by putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was overmatched and struck out to end the game.

The Mets played shorthanded with their bullpen after trading Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for Jon Niese. Part of the reason why they’ve been playing shorthanded was GM Sandy Alderson’s reluctance to make a move, and also that their Triple-A farm team is located in Las Vegas, nearly four hours away.

The other key storylines were Reynolds and word Zack Wheeler will pitch in a minor league game Saturday.

REYNOLDS’ BIG NIGHT WASTED: Reynolds doubled and hit the three-run homer as the replacement for Asdrubal Cabrera, who is expected to go on the disabled list when Jay Bruce joins the team Tuesday.

The Mets’ bullpen appears stabilized with Wilmer Flores at third, Reynolds at short, Neil Walker at second and James Loney playing first.

WHEELER TO WORK IN GAME: The Mets finally got some encouraging news Monday with news Zack Wheeler would begin a rehab assignment Saturday.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, threw 23 pitches – his fastball timed at 93 mph. – in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie Tuesday.

Wheeler is now expected to join the Mets after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

It’s a positive note considering all the Mets’ recent sobering injury news, with Jose Reyes and Juan Lagares going on the disabled list within the past week. Cabrera is expected to join them Tuesday.

Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols

 

UPDATED

The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.

 

Jul 08

Harvey Made Right Call On Surgery

Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey unquestionably made the right decision to undergo surgery for treatment of the thorasic outlet syndrome in his pitching shoulder. It was the best option for his pitching and financial future, and to the Mets for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to perform the procedure next week in St. Louis. The surgery, which would entail removing one of his ribs, is designed to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the space between the neck and shoulder. The increased pressure caused numbness in his arm and fingers.

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

Harvey’s options were surgery or a nerve-blocking injection, the latter being a temporary solution with surgery eventually required.

Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, whose comments last year on the pitcher’s innings limit created a stir, strongly advocated the surgery to ESPN: “The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17.’

“The rehab on this is six months. Now, if there was a small window of a season, you might be able to take a shot. It’s actually Botox, which relaxes the muscles. That’s not a long-term solution. `The only way this is going to be treated appropriately –  and obviously, we don’t want to do anything to affect next year – is to get this surgically taken care of.”

That’s the understandable driving force behind the decision. This was chosen to set up Harvey for his turn at free agency. Had he chosen the injection and gotten through the season, that would be great. But, if it only lasted a few months and he had the surgery later this year, or in the offseason, or next year, all or most of 2017, could be lost. That would leave Harvey with one year to make an impression on his future suitors when he hits the free agent market after the 2018 season.

And, nobody knows how he’ll pitch coming off surgery. If you’re Harvey – not to mention the Mets or any team that would go after him – you want two years to make an impression. That’s why Harvey’s decision is a no-brainer. But, how does losing Harvey help the Mets the rest of this year?

Knowing the Mets won’t have him in the second half enables GM Sandy Alderson to freely pursue another arm before the July 31 trade deadline, even if it jacks up the asking price. That’s preferable to waiting through at least two Harvey starts before hitting the market late, which would increase the price even more.

This also allows manager Terry Collins to determine his rotation now and eliminates the inevitable questioning and excuse making after each of his starts. And, who would want to see Harvey go down for surgery in a September pennant-race game or the playoffs?

Harvey hasn’t pitched well, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, and this ailment is an obvious explanation. Harvey frequently complained about not having his mechanics, but not having feelings in his arm and fingers could explain a change in mechanics.

However, left unanswered is why Harvey hadn’t complained about a lack of feeling before his disastrous start on Monday. Boras’ answer to that question explains both the good, and bad, about Harvey.

His bulldog approach on the mound, for example, his eight innings in Game 5 of the World Series, is to be applauded. It’s the spirit that defines an ace. That’s the good.

But, here’s the bad, as delivered by Boras.

“He’s felt this way since spring training, but he wanted to gut it out, try to do it, until finally, he’s going, ‘Look, I’m just feeling like I don’t feel the baseball the same.’ Once we heard that, I was like, ‘Maybe we have a TOS situation,’ and got him over to Dr. Thompson.”

Sounds plausible, but it underscores the increasingly, maddening, “I’ll do what I feel like” aspect that has defined Harvey’s short career. It also raises the inevitable question of what could have happened had this been discovered a month or two earlier.

If he had surgery in May or June perhaps he could have come back in late August, or September, or even the playoffs.

We’ll never know.

Jul 07

Mets’ Harvey Facing No-Brainer Surgery

For the second time within four years, Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is facing season-ending surgery. However, it should be remembered surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder should not be interpreted to mean it is career ending.

One day after being placed on the 15-day disabled list, Harvey was examined today in St. Louis by Dr. Robert Thompson. This syndrome is when nerves and blood vessels are compressed because of a closure in a passageway through the base of the neck and armpit.

HARVEY: Faces tough choice.  (AP)

HARVEY: Faces tough choice. (AP)

GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today at Cit Field the pressure could be caused by several ways, including muscle build up, contact with the bone and repetitive movement caused by pitching. Alderson said Harvey’s options are two-fold: 1) season-ending surgery which could take four months to recover, and, 2) a nerve-block injection, which is temporary.

Alderson said surgery is likely unavoidable, which makes this a no-brainer of a decision.

“I do believe that surgery is probably inevitable and more a question of timing than anything else,” Alderson said. “So obviously to the extent that we’re backed up for a period of time, it begins potentially to encroach on 2017 as well.”

Alderson said pretty much the same thing in 2013 about Tommy John surgery. Harvey balked, but eventually relented to the obvious choice. Had he chosen surgery immediately, he might have had more time in rehab and consequently the innings limit might have become less of an issue.

Should Harvey choose the injection and makes it through the season, there’s no telling how it would impact his performance. However, if he takes the injection and eventually requires surgery, it could cost him all of 2017. And, with him becoming a free-agent after the 2018 season, that doesn’t leave much time for him to make a positive impression on potential suitors.

Harvey is in his second year following Tommy John, which can sometimes be the most difficult as proven by his 4-10 record and a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts. In Monday’s game he gave up 11 hits in 3.2 innings and avoided defeat by a late rally by the Mets.

After the game, manager Terry Collins said Harvey complained he couldn’t feel the ball.

“Obviously it was happening during the game,” Collins said. “He didn’t say anything until after the game.”

Why Harvey didn’t say anything is anybody’s guess, but falls into line with how he’s handled things in the past. I don’t know what option Harvey will choose about surgery, but based on the information already given, it would be the prudent choice both for his health, comeback and financial future.

As for the Mets, they will be forced to scramble, but with how he’s pitching so far, will they really be missing that much?