Brach, Hughes advancing after delayed start

July 26th, 2020

NEW YORK -- ’s primary worries were never with himself. When the Mets reliever tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, his concerns moved instantly to his wife, who had also tested positive and was around 34 weeks pregnant. Brach was in New York. His wife was in Nashville, Tenn. Weeks passed.

As Brach bided his time recovering on Long Island, he hoped that “everything would align” and he would be able to return home for the birth. Finally, after waiting and fretting, he tested negative and traveled home in time to see his wife give birth to twin boys.

“Thankfully, it was nothing too serious,” Brach said after returning to Citi Field on Saturday. “Just really happy and glad to be back. Just glad my wife’s feeling good and the boys are safe, and everybody’s doing all right.”

The day Brach underwent intake testing at Citi Field earlier this month, he felt a little sick, but figured it was a cold. Since he otherwise felt fine, Brach left the ballpark to find lunch. Then he bit into his sandwich and realized he could not taste it.

“I knew I was going to test positive,” Brach said.

The ensuing two weeks were a study in frustration. In his hotel room in Garden City, Brach kept his arm in shape by throwing a baseball into a tube sock. Mets trainers delivered him a weighted ball bag that he was able to use as well. Eventually, Brach began driving around to empty parks to throw baseballs with more velocity into a fence.

Saturday, he threw a bullpen session at Citi Field with no ill effects, though Mets manager Luis Rojas indicated that Brach is about a week behind -- another reliever who missed all of Summer Camp due to an undisclosed issue. Hughes worked out at the team’s alternate training site in Brooklyn on Saturday, and he is scheduled to throw live batting practice to hitters in the coming days.

Brach, by comparison, plans to throw another bullpen session on Monday before potentially graduating to live BP. His hope is that he can soon return to the mound after signing a one-year deal worth $850,000 over the offseason to rejoin the Mets.

“More than anything, I was just frustrated because these last four or five months have been like a roller coaster of emotions,” Brach said. “You think the season’s going to be over, then you hear it’s going to start next week, and then you think it’s going to be over again. So when we finally got the word that Spring 2.0 was starting back up, you’re just excited to get back and be around the guys.”

Rojas called Brach and Hughes “a couple of weapons pending,” knowing their absences have weakened the Mets’ bullpen depth. The team is also without Robert Gsellman, who is nursing a bout of right triceps soreness on the IL.

“I think the biggest thing, especially for my own mental sanity, is not to put a timeline on it so I don’t get too excited or too bummed out if I don’t reach it by a certain point,” Brach said.

Rotation update
will start the Mets’ fourth game of the season on Monday, Rojas confirmed. He'll be pitching at Fenway Park for the first time since the 2013 World Series, when he went 1-1 in two Fall Classic starts as a rookie, losing the decisive Game 6 to the Red Sox.

The Mets have still not announced who will start their fifth game of the season on Tuesday. Right-hander Corey Oswalt is a candidate for that, but the Mets could also choose another starter or proceed with a bullpen game.

Roster move
The Red Sox claimed Stephen Gonsalves off waivers from the Mets on Saturday, ending the left-hander’s brief stint in the latter organization.

Gonsalves, 26, came to New York on waiver claim from the Twins in November. He reported to Spring Training and then Summer Camp as a piece of rotational depth, but wasn’t able to pitch his way above David Peterson, Corey Oswalt and other young starters on the Mets’ depth chart. As a result, the Mets designated him for assignment earlier this week to make room for other adds to their 40-man roster.

Gonsalves appeared in only eight Minor League games last season as he battled left arm issues, but was fully healthy this spring.