NEW YORK -- After weighing all options, receiving medical opinions and second opinions and, ultimately, considering the breadth of his future, Mets second baseman Neil Walker appears headed for season-ending back surgery. Manager Terry Collins said after Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Marlins that Walker is likely to undergo the
NEW YORK -- After weighing all options, receiving medical opinions and second opinions and, ultimately, considering the breadth of his future, Mets second baseman Neil Walker appears headed for season-ending back surgery. Manager Terry Collins said after Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Marlins that Walker is likely to undergo the procedure instead of attempt to play through his back issues.
"It's a massive hit," said infielder Kelly Johnson, one of several players who will fill in at second base. "Losing anybody that you've been counting on, and having such a great year -- Neil's been, not just on the field but in here, he's a positive attitude and upbeat, has fun, loves playing the game. It rubs off on us."
Earlier Wednesday, general manager Sandy Alderson expressed confidence that Walker could play through what he described as a "pretty routine" herniated disk in the second baseman's back, while Collins offered a less optimistic tone. Neither man at that time knew the result of Walker's second opinion, which he sought from a local doctor during the day.
Walker is expected to address his situation on Thursday afternoon.
"The issue is that the herniated disk is causing weakness in one of his legs," Collins said. "The weakness is causing numbness in one of his feet. The numbness is keeping him from playing."
Rather than attempt to play through those issues at something far less than 100 percent, Walker appears headed for surgery. Coming to the club in a December trade for Jonathon Niese, Walker hit .282 with 23 home runs and an .823 OPS. Though he and the Mets have expressed mutual interest in extending his contract, with Alderson going as far as to plan in-season talks with Walker's agent, the second baseman's back woes have complicated the situation.
Walker, who will turn 31 on Sept. 10, will be a free agent after the season and is now far more of an injury risk than he once was. But the Mets recently traded Walker's obvious replacement, Dilson Herrera, in an Aug. 1 trade for Jay Bruce. While the team could use Wilmer Flores or José Reyes as its full-time second baseman in 2017, or convert a Minor League shortstop such as No. 3 prospect Gavin Cecchini, the organization no longer has an obvious in-house heir to Walker.
In the short term, the Mets will split second-base reps among Johnson, Flores and Ty Kelly, with T.J. Rivera and Matt Reynolds also options in September. The Mets feel fortunate to have depth at the position, but know they will struggle to replace the production of Walker.
"This is a special guy," Collins said. "He wants to help now, and he's afraid that if he goes out there in his present condition, he's not going to be able to play the way he wants to play. He didn't say one thing about next year. He didn't say one thing about down the road. He just said, 'Look, right now, I've got to help out and I don't know if I can.'
"All of the stuff that has to come together to reach a decision, to me, is mind-boggling. All the different pieces that have to be put in place ... we're certainly very disappointed that it's come to this. He's had a tremendous year for us, but certainly he makes the decision in his best interest."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.