NEW YORK -- Four pitches into Tuesday's 2-1 Mets win over the Royals, a hush fell over those Citi Field fans who were not still in concession lines or spilling off the subway. Whit Merrifield lined a fastball at 97 mph back to the pitcher's mound, where it struck off Bartolo Colon's right thumb and fell to the turf.
"The first thought that popped into my head was, 'God, please don't let this be a broken thumb,'" Colon said. "I had never been hit there before."
It was not a broken thumb; X-rays were negative, and the Mets diagnosed Colon with merely a bruise. But it was nonetheless a frightening moment and a difficult situation for the Mets to navigate, after trainer Ray Ramirez told manager Terry Collins that Colon could pitch no more. Already blasted by injuries entering the night, the Mets were forced to cobble together 8 2/3 innings from their bullpen.
Colon's four-pitch start was the shortest for the Mets since STATS began keeping track of pitch counts in 1988 -- one shorter than the five-pitch outing John Maine gave them on May 20, 2010, in a game that prompted pitching coach Dan Warthen to call Maine a "habitual liar" about his health.
"One thing about Bartolo, if it hurts, if he gets hit by a line drive, he can pitch," manager Terry Collins said. "Most of the time he'll say, 'Hey look, I'll be OK.' He didn't do that tonight. And that's when I said, 'This is not a good sign.'"
Though the Mets recalled a pitcher, Sean Gilmartin, prior to Tuesday's game, the left-hander was unavailable after throwing 100 pitches on Sunday for Triple-A Las Vegas. That left the Mets even more short-handed than they otherwise would have been, and much in need of the 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball that Hansel Robles gave them. Thanks to the performances of Robles and four other relievers, the Mets plucked a win from what could have been an understandable defeat.
Only later will they find out at what cost. The team plans to reevaluate Colon on Wednesday morning, after the swelling in his thumb has had a chance to subside. Collins did not dismiss the possibility that Colon, who is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 15 outings, could need a disabled-list stint.
"I think we'll know more in the morning after he's had treatment on it all night," Collins said. "But it swelled up pretty fast out on the field. We'll see how he is tomorrow. If he had trouble moving it tomorrow, we'll have to certainly take a look at that."