Alvarez set to begin rehab assignment

May 28th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Amidst a rash of less positive injury news, one Mets player is trending ahead of schedule.

Catcher is set to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday for Double-A Binghamton, manager Carlos Mendoza said. Although Mendoza was unsure how long Alvarez’s assignment might last, MLB rules only permit rehabbing position players to spend 20 days in the Minors.

Barring a setback, that puts Alvarez on track to return no later than June 19.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” Mendoza said. “The fact that he’s now ready to go in games is a good sign for us.”

Since tearing the UCL in his left thumb during an April 19 game in Los Angeles and subsequently undergoing surgery, Alvarez has made rapid progress. He took full batting practice on Saturday for the first time since his injury and has also been catching bullpens, hitting off a high-velocity machine in an indoor batting cage, and running bases at full speed. So energetic was Alvarez during a baserunning drill Tuesday that afterward, he jokingly said he plans to steal 20 bases.

Alvarez is scheduled to catch five to seven innings Thursday at Binghamton. He will need to progress to back-to-back assignments of at least seven innings apiece before the Mets consider activating him.

“The added complication here as a catcher with his injury is: how is it going to feel receiving the baseball?” Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “So that’s the hurdle, and we won’t really know until he gets out there. But everything’s going really well so far.”

A June 19 return would put Alvarez right around the eight-week mark post-surgery, which is when Mets officials initially predicted he would make it back to active duty. Of note, Alvarez recently had a conversation with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who returned from an identical injury in five weeks in 2022. While Alvarez won’t reach that mark -- he hit five weeks post-op on Tuesday -- his rapid progression to a rehab assignment suggests he could beat initial estimates.

Alvarez has been wearing a splint underneath his catcher’s mitt and may continue to do so all season, depending on pain tolerance.

No matter how long this final stage of Alvarez’s rehab takes, the Mets will be eager to have him back. In 16 games prior to his injury, Alvarez batted .236/.288/.364 with one home run and eight RBIs, while also showcasing continued excellence behind the plate as a pitch framer.