LOS ANGELES –This was to be Matt Harvey’s day. A once premium matchup of the Mets’ righthander against the Dodgers’ lefthander Clayton Kershaw. Instead, it is a bitter highlight of what the Mets have gone through since they beat the Dodgers in the 2015 NLDS.
A team built on their starters, young power arms, the Mets have been at the mercy of those arms, which have also proven to be fragile, ever since. Last season was pretty much lost when three of their starters needed season ending surgery and Zack Wheeler could not make it back from March 2015 Tommy John surgery.
And so far, in 2017, the Mets have fallen victim to the ups-and-mostly downs of a struggling starting staff that is trying to work its way back from too many setbacks to enumerate.
Harvey was shut down after his last start with a “stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder,” which was the latest setback. The initial diagnosis was a bone bruise, but the Mets explain it more as an inflammation in the bone, which had it gone undiagnosed could have led to a fracture or break. He is expected to miss several weeks in the latest of his string of frustrating setbacks, which included losing half of last season to have surgery to address the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
The Mets started Zack Wheeler instead Monday night on an extra day of rest. His last start and and Harvey’s latest injury convinced the Mets that they needed to stick with the six-man rotation — or a five-man with a spot starter — even though they don’t really have the manpower to do it properly.
“He looked fatigued,” a Mets source said of Wheeler in his last start. “He’s been through a lot to get back to this point. He worked hard through spring training to prove he could come back and he needs that extra day right now.”
Wheeler, who is back after an unusual two-year recovery from Tommy John surgery, was shelled in his last start. He allowed eight runs, including two home runs on six hits in just 1.2 innings pitched.
“These guys aren’t going to say it, but they really need that extra day,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “They all need it right now, so we have to find a way to make it work.”
To make it work, the Mets will most likely have to use a minor-league call-up like Tyler Pill to start Wednesday’s game. Pill was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts for the Mets this season. On a road trip that the Mets desperately need to start turning things around, that seems like a risky move.
The Mets seem to think it is actually the safe and smart gamble.
“We’ve got to keep these guys healthy,” Collins said. “That’s how we are built. We’ve got to get good starting pitching and we’ve got to get these guys through the season.”
And last week, when Harvey could not get any life or zip on his fastball, it became apparent once again how hard that challenge is going to be.
With the addition of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo to the rotation earlier this month, the Mets’ concern about their pitchers health was magnified. Matz has never gotten through any of his three major league seasons without an extended time on the disabled list, including being shut down in August 2016 with a shoulder injury. Lugo is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery. Diagnosed with a partial tear in his right elbow on Opening Day, Lugo had a platelet-rich plasma injection and did a program of strengthening and throwing to avoid the season-ending surgery.
So the Mets decided the best way to try and prevent or avoid the loss of starts to injuries was with extra rest.
The extra day’s rest seemed to have worked for Jacob deGrom. Sunday, the righthander held the Nationals to one unearned run on three hits over eight innings. After a season of ups and downs, it was the first time that deGrom had put together back-to-back dominant outings and both were on five-days rest. DeGrom, who was named the National League Player of the Week Monday, had pitched a complete game, holding the Cubs to one run on five hits in his previous start.