Conforto sustains concussion, to go on 7-day IL

Lefty slugger injured in collision with Cano; McNeil also exits leaving Mets' OF thin

May 16th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto sprinted toward the baseball, eyes skyward, converging on the same patch of Nationals Park grass but not quite knowing it. The realization struck both at once, throwing them off-kilter long enough for the ball to fall to the turf.

In the scorebook, it was a fifth-inning double, leading to the go-ahead run Thursday in the Mets’ 7-6 loss to the Nationals. In reality, it was something much more frightening for the Mets, who lost Conforto to a concussion.

Inadvertently striking Cano’s shoulder with his face, Conforto struggled to his feet and departed the game for the Mets, who lost infielder Jeff McNeil to lower abdominal tightness earlier in the day. Left with a lineup of reinforcements and a dwindling bench, the Mets could not recover. As they flew to Miami, Conforto boarded a train back to New York for further tests. The Mets intend to place him on the seven-day injured list, which is reserved for players suffering from concussion symptoms.

“He hit the ground pretty hard and was kind of dazed when I got out there, kind of stumbling around a little bit,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of Conforto, who hit a game-tying, three-run homer earlier in the afternoon. “Right then and there, we knew we were going to have to get him out of there.”

Ranging over from second to field the popup, Cano said he called the ball immediately, and did not hear Conforto yell anything until late. Afterward, Conforto told Mets officials that he did not lose consciousness; multiple members of the Mets’ traveling party nonetheless described his state as abnormal.

“You never want to see that, especially with Mike,” said pitcher Zack Wheeler, who allowed six runs in six innings to take the loss. He’s one of our best players. It’s tough to see.”

McNeil suffered a milder fate, leaving the game in the third after experiencing abdominal discomfort -- an issue he has dealt with sporadically since undergoing sports hernia surgery in 2016. The Mets’ regular leadoff man, McNeil expects to be fine by this weekend.

“It’s nothing I’m worried about,” he said.

With those two -- perhaps their two best hitters -- sidelined, the Mets mustered a ninth-inning rally at Nationals Park, but could not complete a comeback. Facing Nationals closer Sean Doolittle in a three-run game, the team received three consecutive hits from Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos and Juan Lagares, putting the potential tying run in scoring position. With two outs, Cano singled to load the bases, but Keon Broxton -- the Mets’ fifth outfielder, who had replaced Conforto earlier in the game -- struck out to end things.

Afterward, Broxton spoke about the difficulty of succeeding in limited playing time, having started just once in the last 18 days. He is 1-for-25 with 10 strikeouts dating to April 15.

“From the start of the season, I’ve been surprised at why I haven’t been playing as much, and why I haven’t gotten as many opportunities,” said Broxton, who opened the season in a 4-for-9 groove. “It’s not like I started out bad. … Every time I get up there, I feel like I’ve got to do more than what I need to do, just to keep playing. It’s tough.”

Asked if he believes Conforto’s injury may create more playing time for him, Broxton replied: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know how they’re thinking. I don’t know what they want.”

If nothing else, Conforto’s concussion may prevent the Mets from designating Broxton for assignment, given their lack of outfield depth. The team needs to make a roster move before Friday’s game, with veteran Carlos Gomez, who is batting .361 in his last 10 games at Triple-A Syracuse, the leading candidate to take Conforto’s spot. The Mets also have no idea how long Conforto will be sidelined. Seven-day injured list protocol stipulates that both Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association must approve moves onto and off of the seven-day list.

For now, the Mets can only hope that Conforto recovers quickly. Their other outfielders include McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares and Broxton, with Gomez and Rajai Davis their top depth options in the Minors. J.D. Davis recently began receiving reps in left field, but the Mets are not yet entirely comfortable using him there.

“Somebody else is just going to have to step up,” Callaway said. “That’s how this game goes. When you lose somebody, somebody else has got to step up and get the job done.”