Quintana (lesion on rib) not expected back until at least July

March 14th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Following more than a week of tests, medical opinions and doctor consultations, including a period in which feared a life-altering diagnosis, the Mets have both an answer and a plan of action to address their ailing starter’s condition.

Quintana will undergo bone graft surgery to repair a stress fracture in his rib and will not return to the Majors until at least July, general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday. The left-hander has a benign lesion on his rib, which became the primary factor behind his decision to pursue surgery instead of a more conservative route. While Quintana’s absence will weaken the Mets’ roster, team officials are relieved the news was not worse.

“This took on a human element,” Eppler said. “This was bigger than baseball. José’s got our support and anything he needs, but I’m just really thankful that we’re at least here as opposed to one of the other potential outcomes.”

A best-case scenario for Quintana, per Eppler, would be a return to the Majors after July 1. He is scheduled to undergo the operation on Friday.

“This was a situation that could have turned in a bad place for him and his family,” the GM said. “I’ll always put that at the forefront of everything.”

After Quintana departed a March 5 game due to discomfort in his midsection, the Mets diagnosed him with a stress fracture in the fifth rib on his left side. A team orthopedist subsequently discovered a lesion in the area, prompting the Mets to send Quintana to New York for a biopsy and further testing. Although the biopsy revealed nothing malignant, the medical recommendation shifted to surgery rather than a more conservative approach of rest and treatment.

A bone graft offers Quintana a clearer, healthier long-term prognosis. He made the decision on Tuesday morning in consultation with Eppler, manager Buck Showalter, his agent and team medical personnel.

“It’s a fairly involved surgery,” Eppler said. “Whenever you’re doing a bone graft, it’s going to hurt. That’s why it’s hard to set a specific timetable, but in any of the calendars we’ve looked at in pencil, they’ve all drifted past July 1.” 

Quintana’s exact return date will depend upon how quickly he can resume physical activity, and eventually baseball activities, following his operation. Even once he is healthy, Quintana will require at least a month-long ramp-up to stretch back out as a starter.

“We think we’ve got our arms around it and got a good approach to it,” Showalter said. “I think he appreciates the thoroughness of it.”

Quintana was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

From 2013-19, Quintana was one of MLB’s most durable starters, averaging 32 starts and 192 2/3 innings per season. He made three trips to the IL over the next two years due to thumb, lat and shoulder injuries, but recovered last season to deliver a career year between the Pirates and Cardinals. That was enough for the Mets to sign him to a two-year, $26 million contract to become their fourth starter.

For as long as Quintana is sidelined, the Mets will rely on someone else in the rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and Carlos Carrasco. The team’s two most obvious options are David Peterson and Tylor Megill, who combined to make 28 starts last season and are both off to strong starts this spring.

Peterson threw four scoreless innings Tuesday in a 5-0 loss to the Nationals and has not allowed a hit over eight Grapefruit League innings. Megill threw four scoreless innings Monday against the Marlins to trim his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.08.

“It sucks to see one of your teammates go down with that, and I hope he gets back as quick as he can,” Peterson said. “But I think that’s kind of been the thing all along is the front office and the coaching staff have wanted to have starting pitching depth, and they’ve made it a priority. So this is where it comes in handy to have guys to choose from.”

Options further down the roster include Joey Lucchesi, Elieser Hernandez and Jose Butto. The importance of all of them has increased now that Quintana will miss significant time.

“There’s a reason we go out and try to build as much depth as possible,” Eppler said. “I think there’s eight, nine, 10 starting pitchers on our depth chart that have pitched at the Major League level. That’s the reason for the depth. You’re trying to navigate a 162-game season over what, 183 days? You want to be positioned to navigate that whole course.”