NEW YORK -- Jay Bruce was the first to notice, waving from right field in an attempt to grab Terry Collins' attention. The Mets' manager eventually saw Bruce and, along with trainer Ray Ramirez, jogged out to check on center fielder Juan Lagares.
At first, Collins did not believe anything was wrong with his Gold Glove center fielder. Only later did Ramirez approach him in the dugout with the news that Lagares had fractured the IP joint in his left thumb during the Mets' 8-3 loss to the Nationals on Thursday.
"I said, 'Yeah,'" Collins recalled. "I'm not surprised."
With that, a day already full of injury news took another dark turn for the Mets, who plan to place Lagares on the disabled list before Friday's game against the Nationals.
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"You've got a broken thumb, you're going to be out," Collins said.
Lagares, who tore a ligament in the same thumb last year, injured himself diving for an Anthony Rendon RBI single in the fifth inning. Lagares remained in the game following a brief check from Collins and Ramirez, but when he returned to the dugout, Lagares couldn't grip his bat. As a result, he gave way to a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning.
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The injury came hours after the Mets absorbed negative injury updates on Matt Harvey, Neil Walker and Noah Syndergaard, all of whom will miss significant time over the coming months. Like Walker, Lagares had been hot at the plate, entering Thursday's play with a .407 batting average over his previous eight games. Lagares' defense was as stellar as usual in the third inning, when he fired a 94.7-mph throw, according to Statcast™, to nab Bryce Harper on a play at the plate. But his diving attempt on Rendon's ball was not so successful.
"That was kind of my thought, 'How many [injuries] can we possibly continue to play through?'" Collins said. "But you know what the answer is? As many as pop up, that's what you've got to play through. ... We've just got to play through it. We can't sit there with our bottom lip out and go mope about it. We've got to go play."
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The most obvious candidate to replace Lagares on the Mets' bench, Brandon Nimmo, is also the only outfielder at Triple-A Las Vegas already on the 40-man roster. But Nimmo, the Mets' No. 7 prospect, was batting just .223 at Las Vegas entering play Thursday, with a .216 average over his last 10 games. Veteran Desmond Jennings was also struggling to the tune of a .233 batting average and a .299 on-base percentage. Victor Cruzado has also played some center field for the 51s and was hitting .306, but he has played just 23 career games above Double-A.