J.D. Martinez's Mets debut delayed by soreness from ramp-up

April 7th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- The Mets will open a key four-game divisional matchup against the rival Braves on Monday. They won’t have available for any of it.

Martinez, who signed late in Spring Training and has yet to debut with his new club, has experienced enough “overall body soreness” during his ramp-up that he is not ready to play in Major League games, according to Mets manager Carlos Mendoza.

“He’s feeling it, body-wise,” Mendoza said. “Quick ramp-up, a lot of at-bats on the back fields. But now that he’s started playing in real games where he’s got to go through his routine … it’s going to take him a little bit longer. That’s what we’ve been saying, is it was fluid. So we’ll see where he’s at next week.”

After signing a $12 million contract a week before the regular season began, Martinez consented to start in the Minors so he could work his body into shape. He was eligible to return to the Major Leagues on Sunday, but the Mets quickly nixed that idea.

They have since further delayed the return of Martinez, whose earliest potential debut is Friday when the Mets open a six-game homestand against the Royals and Pirates. And even that is no guarantee.

“We knew it from the beginning,” Mendoza said. “He joined the team late in Spring Training, and we knew he was going to need a lot of time -- not only with the at-bats and the timing and the mechanics, but just overall with his body. So yeah, here we are.”

Martinez spent the first week of the regular season logging plate appearances in controlled environments at the Mets’ Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He debuted in Minor League games as a designated hitter this weekend for Single-A St. Lucie, going 1-for-8 with a single and a walk on Friday and Saturday. But after those contests, Martinez felt sore enough to schedule off-days for Sunday and Monday. He’ll return to Minor League action with St. Lucie on Tuesday.

According to Mendoza, the issue has more to do with the 36-year-old’s muscle recovery than with his timing at the plate.

“Timing-wise, he’s feeling good with the mechanics,” Mendoza said, noting that Martinez has no plans to take outfield reps in the Minors. “It’s just the overall body soreness that every player goes through. When a position player reports to Spring Training, that second week is the toughest one -- especially when they start playing games and it’s more like longer days and more activities and things like that. And that’s what he’s going through right now.”

Had Martinez been able to debut in Atlanta this week, it would have been a boon for a team that entered Sunday’s play ranking 28th in the Majors in runs per game, 29th in batting average, 26th in on-base percentage and dead last in slugging. As a 35-year-old last season, Martinez hit .271/.321/.572 over 113 games and made the National League All-Star team for the Dodgers.

Mendoza said that members of the Major League staff have been in constant conversation with Martinez, weighing his feedback against their own.

“The last thing you want is to try to rush him and then something bad happens to him,” Mendoza said. “It’s both parties, here -- us presenting ideas, and listening to him as well because he knows himself better than anybody. We’re just starting to get to know the player now.”