McNeil goes on IL with partial UCL tear in left elbow

September 28th, 2023

NEW YORK -- A year after winning the National League batting title, ’s season has ended in decidedly less glory. McNeil was placed on the injured list Thursday due to a partially torn UCL in his left elbow. He will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection and expects to avoid surgery, but the injury has nonetheless ended his season.

“I’ve been grinding through it basically all year,” McNeil said. “I’ve always had something going on here. It’s tough to have it end this way, but hopefully no other problems, get ready for next year.”

McNeil’s injury stems from a Sept. 11 game against the D-backs, when Tommy Pham threw him out trying to stretch a single into a double. As McNeil slid into second base, he collided with shortstop Jordan Lawlar, which resulted in his arm bending backward.

Subsequent tests revealed what the Mets called a sprain, and what McNeil revealed as a partially torn UCL. The injury is common for position players and does not always result in surgery, though some instances do result in a Tommy John operation.

McNeil is unworried about that, and he believes he should have no problem avoiding surgery.

“There’s a couple things they want to do with him before he leaves,” manager Buck Showalter said, referring to the Mets’ training and medical staffs. “I’m sure we’ll monitor it in the offseason. But we don’t foresee that being an issue, especially with it being his left [non-throwing] elbow.”

Even before the injury, McNeil was never able to replicate his 2022 successes. A year after batting .326, McNeil’s average dipped to .270. He did manage to appear in a career-high 156 games and was one of 79 Major Leaguers to accumulate double-digit home runs and stolen bases, but his walk rate, on-base percentage and slugging mark all fell. McNeil’s league-adjusted 96 OPS+ suggested he was a slightly below-average hitter, a year after he had established himself as one of MLB’s best.

“I think out of the six-month season, four of them were pretty solid and two of them kind of held me down,” McNeil said, suggesting that injuries affected his production during the midsummer months. “I kind of had to battle through those.”

With three seasons left on the four-year, $50 million contract he signed in January, McNeil will remain an integral part of the Mets’ lineup next season. He could return to his traditional role of second base, or the Mets could use Ronny Mauricio there and slide McNeil into a mostly full-time role in the outfield. A versatile defender, McNeil posted positive outs above average totals at second base, left field and right field; the Mets value McNeil’s ability to play all three of those positions at a high level, in large part because it allows them to accommodate other players.

But much will depend upon his recovery. For McNeil, one of the disappointing aspects of his injury is its effect on his ability to golf this winter. Doctors have prescribed no golf for six weeks for McNeil, a scratch golfer who typically spends his offseasons playing some of the finest courses in the country. He said he will consider golfing right-handed if it means he can continue to play without risking harm.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” McNeil said. “If I’m able to do that -- maybe. But I’m just going to get this taken care of.”