The Mets are holding out hope that former Ward Melville star Steven Matz will pitch in the NLDS, although they might not make a call until they must set their roster Friday morning, only hours before Game 1.
After a back issue scrubbed his last scheduled start, the lefthander said he came through a bullpen session Tuesday with no problems.
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His next stop is Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he will pitch Thursday in an instructional league game. General manager Sandy Alderson is hopeful Matz can throw enough pitches in a simulated game to be ready for a start, potentially in Game 4.
"We hope about 90-85 pitches," Alderson said. "Based on how he does in Florida, we'll make a decision as to whether he's on the roster. And if so, at least a tentative decision as to what role he'll have in the Division Series."
Alderson left open the possibility that Matz could be used as a reliever in the NLDS. In that case, Bartolo Colon appears to be lined up to make a start. The Mets also could go with Game 1 starter Jacob deGrom on short rest in Game 4, especially if they are facing elimination.
"We've been encouraged over the last couple of days," Alderson said of Matz. "Things have improved. So certainly today is a step forward, so we are encouraged."
Matz's uncertain status poses an element of risk for the Mets. If he's activated for the NLDS but must be replaced because of an injury, he would not be eligible for the NLCS should the Mets advance.
"I think it's unlikely that we would put him on the roster if we thought there was a greater than not probability he wouldn't be available," Alderson said. "So again, it's something we'll decide on Thursday or even as late as Friday. We are going to take somebody else with us to hedge against his situation. But it's going to be a game-day call, I think."
Matz, 24, is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in six big-league starts. After his second outing, a strong showing against the Dodgers on July 5 in Los Angeles, he missed nearly two months with a partially torn lat muscle in his back.
The Mets initially downplayed Matz's latest injury. Now, with the NLDS looming, his roster status remains uncertain.
"That's something we're going to have to decide by Friday morning at 10 o'clock West Coast time, whether he's on the roster and in what capacity," Alderson said. "Now, it's conceivable that we put him on the roster without fully designating a capacity, starting and relieving. We'll just have to wait and see."