NEW YORK -- Jeurys Familia’s early-season struggles have surprised a Mets team that committed three years and $30 million to him this winter to be their setup man. But perhaps an explanation exists. A day after blowing a save in the Mets’ 4-3 win over the Reds, Familia called New York staffers complaining of right shoulder soreness.
Familia underwent an MRI, which revealed no structural damage aside from a Bennett lesion -- essentially a bony growth -- that has bothered him periodically for years. Familia received a cortisone shot and the Mets placed him on the 10-day injured list, terming his injury shoulder soreness. To replace him, they called up lefty Ryan O’Rourke from Triple-A Syracuse.
A Mets spokesman said Familia was not at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon, and thus not available for comment.
“I don’t have real long-term concern,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “Every time you put a player on the IL, you have to hold your breath to a degree. But I think the report we got from the doctors today gives us every bit of confidence that this shouldn’t be a long-term issue.”
Neither Van Wagenen nor manager Mickey Callaway said they knew of Familia’s discomfort until he alerted them to the issue on Wednesday morning. When asked if Familia felt anything amiss before Wednesday, Van Wagenen replied simply: “We heard about it today.”
The Mets, then, can only guess to what extent the shoulder issue affected Familia as he produced a 6.28 ERA over his first 14 appearances, with 13 walks in 14 1/3 innings. Tasked with recording a six-out save on Tuesday, Familia quickly retired five batters before allowing four consecutive baserunners -- including a game-tying RBI single to Jose Peraza -- in the ninth. Afterward, he offered no hints of a physical ailment, saying only that he’s “lost a little bit of confidence.”
“There’s always variables that impact a player’s performance,” Van Wagenen said. “He showed signs [Tuesday] of being at his best for a three-out stretch there where he struck three guys out in a row and induced some soft contact. I wouldn’t want to put anything from a performance standpoint on what he’d been feeling or not feeling.”
Other than the Bennett lesion, which has bothered Familia sporadically for years, the reliever’s MRI came back “fairly clean,” according to Callaway. The Mets expect him to refrain from throwing only for a couple of days, setting him up potentially to return from the injured list shortly after he’s eligible.
In the interim, O’Rourke will take his spot in the bullpen. The left-hander nearly made the team out of Spring Training, eventually losing a tight roster battle with Tim Peterson. Since that time, he has posted a 4.61 ERA at Syracuse, with 14 strikeouts and six walks in 13 2/3 innings. Most of that damage occurred early in April, however; in his final seven outings at Triple-A, O’Rourke produced a 2.53 ERA.
The Mets now have two of their five highest-leverage relievers on the injured list in Familia and Justin Wilson, who is rehabbing from a bout of elbow soreness. With Wilson due back as soon as this week, Callaway said he was not worried about a bullpen that entered Wednesday’s play 28th in the Majors in ERA.
“Every organization strives to have the best pitching depth they possibly can, and ours rivals just about any,” Callaway said. “It’s a situation where you can’t just go out, ‘OK, we need pitching depth,’ and go get it. Anybody that is better than what we have would already be pitching in the big leagues somewhere.”
Asked about free agent Craig Kimbrel, who remains available on the open market, Callaway replied: “I just play the players that I’m given. I think we do everything we can to field the best team, and I believe in those players that I’m given. That’s really all we need in my opinion, and we’ll go out there and get the job done.”