PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets lefthander Jason Vargas will have surgery Tuesday to remove a fractured bone from his right hand, the team announced Sunday night. Removal of the small bone is the usual treatment for the injury.
Vargas will begin throwing again about five days later, though it’s not clear how much of the regular season he might miss. The Mets don’t need a fifth starter until April 4, 15 days after Vargas’ operation.
If Vargas opens the year on the disabled list, it sets the stage for the Mets’ rotation to be composed of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler for the first time — after years of anticipation from the fan base and the team.
“We’ve always wanted to do it, ever since we all got up to the big leagues. Even before that,” Wheeler said Sunday morning. “It’s a big deal to us. I’m sure the fans want to see it. It would be a lot of fun.”
Matz and Wheeler have been competing for the No. 5 starter spot. Righthanders Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman also could be rotation options in Vargas’ absence but recently have been getting looks in multi-inning relief roles, making the bullpen the more likely destination if they open the year in the majors.
Wheeler will pitch one inning in a simulated game Monday, manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday in Sarasota. Wheeler will take Vargas’ turn in the rotation Thursday night against the Nationals at First Data Field.
Wheeler said Vargas’ injury doesn’t change what he is trying to accomplish during spring training.
“I’m still trying to go out there and do well and put it in their mind that I can pitch at this level,” he said. “It’s unfortunate what happened. I don’t think it’s a [very serious injury] what’s going on with [Vargas]. He should be back soon, so.”
Vargas was injured Friday when a line drive in a minor-league game caught him on his non-throwing hand. X-rays were negative, but a CT scan revealed a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone, a small bone on the lower, pinky side of the hand.
Hamate injuries are common for batters; Wilmer Flores missed most of the last month of the 2016 season after he broke his. The injury often affects a player’s ability to hit for power.
Vargas and the Mets decided on surgery after doctors from the Hospital for Special Surgery examined him Sunday. Vargas will have the surgery at the New York City hospital.
Before Vargas, 35 — who was signed to a two-year, $16-million contract last month to help shore up the Mets’ rotation, given the injury histories of the others — saw a hand specialist, having him pitch through the injury was a possibility.
“He’ll either pitch through it or he’ll have it surgically repaired,” general manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday morning. “The question is, if he pitches through it, what effect that will have on his preparation for the season. Secondarily, if he has the surgery, what impact that has. I can’t really answer either of those questions right now.”
The Mets got their answer a few hours later.