Following his fight with the coronavirus last month, Brad Brach began throwing again and soon realized something: This wasn’t going to be as easy as he hoped or expected.
On the day of his first bullpen session at Citi Field, he acknowledged that the last three or four pitches were “probably three or four too many.” In the two-plus weeks since, as he practiced at the Mets’ alternate training site in Brooklyn, he struggled to get his velocity to its usual mid-90s range, was inconsistent outing to outing and generally didn’t feel like himself.
He said he is good to go now, though, as the Mets activated him from the injured list Tuesday. But getting here was a process.
“There were times where, in the last week or two, you’re just like, 'man, am I ever going to get back to feeling 100%?'” Brach said. “That’s a normal thing in spring training that happens, my velocity is down a little bit. But when you throw this illness on top of it and not throwing for two or three weeks with 100% intensity, [doubt] is one of those things that creeps back in your head.
“It’s just not going to translate as quick as I want it to. That was the most frustrating part for me. When I got here to Citi Field, I felt like it was going to take me two or three outings and I’ll be ready to go. Obviously, when I got to Brooklyn, that wasn’t the case.”
Brach said he never considered opting out of the season. But he understands why some players — including the Mets’ Marcus Stroman and Yoenis Cespedes — did.
“MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement for a reason,” he said. “I would never say anything about against anybody who does opt out because you just never know where guys’ heads are at and how they’re feeling at the time. This really isn’t something to mess around with.
“I wouldn’t say I was necessarily scared or nervous when I had the virus, but it’s definitely one of those things where you definitely just need to take a step back and realize there’s bigger things than baseball, really.”
Lock-ett and loaded
The Mets also activated righthander Walker Lockett (lower back discomfort) from the injured list. Righthander Paul Sewald and catcher Ali Sanchez were optioned to the alternate training site.
Lockett was available out of the bullpen Tuesday and is a candidate to start Wednesday in place of Michael Wacha (right shoulder inflammation). Manager Luis Rojas said the Mets also might use an opener — a reliever to begin the game for an inning or two — before bringing in a traditional starter against the Nationals.
Rojas said an uptick in velocity and a new cutter gives the Mets confidence in Lockett, who had an 8.34 ERA in nine games (four starts) in the majors last year.
Dom the backstop
First baseman/leftfielder Dominic Smith has declared himself the Mets’ emergency catcher, according to Rojas.
“He always tells me that he’s my emergency everything,” Rojas said. “Of course, he wanted to pitch that ninth inning too (Monday) night.”
Smith went as far as to work out behind the plate for a few minutes Tuesday afternoon with catching instructor Brian Schneider, making throws to second.
Rojas, who winced and laughed when the topic came up, said it wasn’t too serious.
“Dom’s smooth, you never know,” Rojas said. “But nothing specifically that we’re working on.”
Pete Alonso was out of the lineup Tuesday for the first time this season. Rojas said it was just a day off . . . Amed Rosario was also out of the lineup as he dealt with “a little bit of a stomach bug,” Rojas said . . . Robinson Cano (strained groin) worked out at Citi Field. He is eligible to return from the IL on Friday . . . Jake Marisnick (left hamstring strain) played centerfield and had three at-bats in a simulated game Monday.