Mets put Stroman on IL with calf muscle tear

July 23rd, 2020

NEW YORK -- Another injury has rocked the Mets' rotation, with significant implications for their Opening Day roster.

The Mets on Wednesday placed on the injured list with a torn left calf, an injury he sustained earlier in camp. He is “week to week,” according to manager Luis Rojas, putting a significant dent in the Mets’ short-term plans. The team is already without Noah Syndergaard for the entire season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Mets officials planned to huddle on Wednesday evening to discuss their choices in advance of Thursday’s 12 p.m. ET roster deadline. Rojas has determined that Jacob deGrom will start Opening Day on Friday, followed by Steven Matz and Rick Porcello on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, against the Braves. Michael Wacha is likely to start the fourth game of the season, though the team has yet to make the announcement.

After that, the Mets have several options. Their top internal choices include 10th-ranked prospect David Peterson -- who features the most upside of the group, but whose presence on the Opening Day roster would cost the Mets a year of team control over him -- as well as right-handers Corey Oswalt and Erasmo Ramírez. A source said late Wednesday that Ramírez made the Mets' taxi squad rather than their 30-man roster, however, indicating he will not be part of the initial mix.

The Mets could sign a free-agent starter, with Matt Harvey being the most prominent name on that list, but the options in that market are not necessarily better than what they have in-house.

Another possibility would be for the Mets to commit to a bullpen game once every five days, using the benefit of 30-man rosters to carry as many as 13 relievers. Team officials have consistently said they do not view Seth Lugo as a starter, but he could be a key part of any bullpen-heavy strategy.

Those answers will come by Thursday afternoon.

“Different guys that we have there are giving us depth, like Corey Oswalt, like Peterson, like Erasmo, and I can go down the line,” Rojas said. “We like our depth. We like our pitching depth. I think what we have in camp can definitely put us up there from a competitive standpoint.”

A focus of the Mets’ offseason, that depth took a hit when Stroman learned of the muscle tear in his calf from an MRI performed Tuesday evening. A surprise acquisition at last year’s Trade Deadline, Stroman went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA for the Mets in 11 starts down the stretch. Those numbers included a 3-0 mark with a 1.88 ERA over his final four starts.

“Man, it’s really unfortunate,” Rojas said. “Stro put in a lot of work and he brought such great shape, and it was really exciting to have the five guys here ready to go right before the season started. He’s grinding through it.”

The genesis of Stroman’s injury is somewhat unclear. He last pitched on Friday in an intrasquad game at Citi Field after posting a picture that morning on Twitter that showed him with a bandage on his left calf. During the game a line drive struck him in the same area, but he stayed in the game to complete three innings.

Days later, Stroman threw a 50-pitch bullpen session without issue. His troubles stem not from throwing the ball but from his movements around the mound.

“This guy, he’s a fighter. He wants to go,” Rojas said. “It’s unfortunate that he’s not going to start in the rotation for us.”

From the trainer’s room
Stroman is not the only Mets pitcher on the shelf; the team also placed reliever Robert Gsellman on the IL due to a bout of tightness in his right triceps. Although Rojas would not give a timeline for Gsellman’s recovery, the stint was backdated, and a source said Gsellman should be good to go when eligible to be activated on July 30.

Gsellman threw off the slope of a mound on Tuesday and “is progressing,” per Rojas. “There’s a plan for him to ramp up."

Comings and goings
The Mets struck a pair of Minor League deals with veteran players on Wednesday, inking contracts with Juan Lagares and Brian Dozier, and releasing Melky Cabrera and Gordon Beckham.

The team is plenty familiar with Lagares, 31, who first joined the organization as a 17-year-old in 2006. Lagares played seven seasons for the Mets (2013-19), serving as their starting center fielder for the first portion of that run and winning a Gold Glove Award in 2014. But injuries prevented him from blossoming into the player the Mets envisioned when they signed him to a $23 million extension that ran through the 2019 season. He signed a Minor League deal with the Padres over the winter but elected for free agency earlier this month.

During his initial run with the Mets, Lagares hit .254 with 25 home runs, 44 stolen bases and a .659 OPS. He is not a candidate to make the Opening Day roster, a source said, but will instead go to the team’s alternate site in Brooklyn to serve as a depth option.

So will Dozier, 33, a former All-Star who hit 42 home runs as the Twins’ everyday second baseman in 2016. Last year, Dozier batted .238 with 20 homers for the Nationals before also signing a free-agent deal in San Diego this winter. The Padres would have owed Dozier $2.2 million had they added him to their 40-man roster; instead they released him last week.

Lagares and Dozier fill the vacancies left by the departures of Cabrera and Beckham, who both signed Minor League deals in the days leading up to Summer Camp.

Second opinion
Infielder Jed Lowrie plans to seek a second opinion about the left knee issues that forced him back to the IL earlier this week. The team plans to have more clarity on Lowrie, who has taken just eight plate appearances since signing a two-year, $20 million deal before last season, in the coming days.

“Right now we’re just trying to identify the source of his discomfort, his pain,” Rojas said.

Comeback kid
More than a year after his last big league game, Eduardo Núñez is set to return to the Majors. A source said that Núñez has made the Mets' 30-man roster, which the team plans to announce on Thursday.

Núñez, 33, was released by the Red Sox last July 20 and sat out the remainder of the season. A former All-Star infielder for the Twins, Núñez will serve as a backup second baseman, third baseman and shortstop in New York.

Working from home
Hitting coach Chili Davis, who has been working remotely from his home in Arizona throughout Summer Camp, does not know if or when he will join the Mets this season.

“I’m actually at home because of the risk, with a few underlying health conditions that I have,” Davis said. “So I haven’t really made a decision on that yet. But apparently, everything’s gone real well in New York with the Spring Training 2.0, and I’m really happy to see that.”

Davis talks two to three times per day with assistant hitting coach Tom Slater, who has handled day-to-day operations in his absence. Minor League hitting coordinator Ryan Ellis has also been at Citi Field, and Davis has watched from afar via footage sent to him by Mets video staffers.

New position
The Mets have moved Donovan Mitchell Sr. to the newly created position of director of diversity, opportunity, inclusion & training. The team plans to announce details on his role in the coming weeks. Mitchell, the father of NBA star Donovan Mitchell Jr., was previously the team’s director of player relations and community engagement.