NEW YORK -- The Mets, who made starting pitching depth a focal point of their offseason strategy, are again seeing that depth tested in the young season. The team on Sunday placed Michael Wacha on the 10-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, calling up catcher Ali Sánchez to replace him on the active roster.
Wacha initially complained of shoulder discomfort following his last start, in which he allowed four runs in five innings to the Marlins on Friday. His fastball velocity notably dipped during that outing, from a high of 96.7 mph in the first inning to a regular range of 90-91 mph in the third. But by the fifth, Wacha had increased his velocity back to 94.7 mph.
Only after completing his outing did Wacha mention anything to Mets trainers.
“The velo kind of came back afterward, so it’s nothing that we noticed, or anything that he shared during the game,” Rojas said. “Right now, not overly concerned. Definitely, we’ll see how he responds to the treatment, and how that inflammation goes down, and how he keeps giving us feedback on how he feels.”
One of the Mets’ primary offseason acquisitions, Wacha inked a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $3 million, with up to $7 million more in incentives based mostly on games started. The Mets felt it necessary to offer Wacha an incentive-laden deal due to his injury history; the former Cardinals All-Star missed significant time last decade for a litany of injuries, including a scapular stress reaction in his right shoulder in 2014, right shoulder inflammation in ’16 and a strained right shoulder last September -- an injury that he called “definitely more major than this one.”
An MRI taken this weekend revealed Wacha’s latest bout of shoulder discomfort. He will receive treatment for the next couple of days, with an eye toward throwing again by the middle of next week.
“I’m trying to stay as optimistic as possible,” Wacha said. “After talking to the doctors, it seemed that it’s a pretty minor injury and nothing really long term. It’s definitely all a positive mindset on my end, and staying as optimistic as I can about getting back there in a timely way.”
Even if Wacha’s injury is indeed minor, the Mets will need to figure out how to fill his next start Wednesday against the Nationals. Marcus Stroman, who is currently on the IL due to a torn left calf muscle, is not a candidate for that outing, though he could eventually fill the rotation spot if Wacha misses multiple starts. Stroman is scheduled to throw a simulated game next week and will not return until Aug. 16 at the earliest.
During his address with reporters on Sunday morning, Rojas thrice mentioned the possibility of a bullpen game, though that strategy will depend upon the Mets’ relief usage in their games leading up to Wednesday. Should the team choose to go with a more traditional starter, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Franklyn Kilome, Erasmo Ramírez and Ariel Jurado are all available at the team’s alternate training site in Brooklyn. Lockett, Oswalt and Kilome in particular stand out as options because they are already on the Mets’ 40-man roster.
In either case, it is another test of the Mets’ pitching depth, which they supplemented with the signings of Wacha and Rick Porcello last offseason. The Mets were forced to tap into that surplus before the season even began, when Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery. Stroman’s injury subsequently resulted in the promotion of rookie David Peterson, who has pitched well as a rotation fill-in. Meanwhile, roster issues forced the Mets to designate for assignment young starters Stephen Gonsalves and Jordan Humphreys, and ultimately lose them to a waiver claim and a trade, respectively.
Wacha’s injury now further tests the Mets’ depth, at a time when the team -- in fourth place in the National League East, with the game’s 19th-ranked rotation ERA -- must find pitching consistency.
“It’s a situation that you’ve got to be prepared for,” Rojas said. “Going into a season like this and a quick ramp-up, there were definitely talks that this could happen. So we feel pretty much confident that we’re going to have some depth, we’re going to have somebody or a group of guys that are going to get us through a game if we don’t have a starter for the day.”
From elsewhere in the trainer’s room
Second baseman Robinson Canó (left adductor strain) has been taking live batting practice at the Mets’ alternate training site. The team remains optimistic he can come off the IL when eligible on Friday.