Then-Dodger J.D. Martinez watches his two-run home run off Rockies...

Then-Dodger J.D. Martinez watches his two-run home run off Rockies starting pitcher Chris Flexen during the first inning of a game on Sept. 28, 2023, in Denver.  Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

ATLANTA — The Mets’ wait for J.D. Martinez keeps getting longer.

During his expedited, personalized spring training, Martinez suffered a setback in the form of lower back tightness, a recurrence of past issues, manager Carlos Mendoza said. The team shut him down for three to five days after he received a cortisone injection Tuesday.

That rendered Martinez’s timeline to join the Mets — already cloudy — ambiguous to the point of not being worth an informed guess. He’ll remain in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and continue hitting activities once he’s healthy enough, Mendoza said.

Mendoza described this development as “nothing too concerning” and added that he was “not at all” worried about further back problems for Martinez, despite his history.

“I don’t want to put a timetable here,” Mendoza said. “Let’s weigh how the next couple of days [go] and how he responds and we’ll go from there.”

Martinez’s back background includes a half-month stay on the injured list with the Dodgers around this time last year.

He also dealt with similar limitations in 2022 with the Red Sox but was never formally sidelined.

 

The experience last season was a “game-changer” for Martinez, according to Mendoza, who spoke to the 36-year-old DH this week.

“This is the reason why we’re doing this,” Mendoza said. “In talking to him, he sounds pretty confident. ‘Look, last year was a game-changer for me. I dealt with this in the past. There were times when I played through it and it wasn’t a good feeling. Last year I got this shot and I was perfectly fine for the rest of the season. So I don’t want to go up there now and have to deal with this the whole year, so why don’t we just get ahead of things and get it done with?’”

The Mets and Martinez agreed to a one-year, $12 million contract on March 21. He played in two games with Low-A St. Lucie before resting because of what the Mets initially called “overall body soreness.” Then they decided to address the back specifically.

“Look, this guy is almost to 80 at-bats in two weeks,” Mendoza said. “I don’t think any position player when they first report to spring training goes through that quick of a ramp-up.”

Rotation rejiggering

The Mets designated Julio Teheran for assignment after one game, his start Monday against Atlanta.

The reason, per Mendoza: They needed a rested reliever to add to the bullpen. Dedniel Nunez, a 27-year-old righthander who has never pitched in the majors, was called up from Triple-A Syracuse. Nunez said he reached 98.7 mph with his fastball in his most recent outing.

That re-opens the rotation spot created by injuries to Kodai Senga and Tylor Megill. The Mets had been considering calling up Jose Butto this weekend anyway, according to a person familiar with their thinking. Dumping Teheran makes that appear more likely. Mendoza said “his name is on the table.”

Teheran’s $2.5 million contract was non-guaranteed, meaning he would receive only a pro-rated portion of the salary based on days spent in the majors (plus up to seven days spent in DFA limbo). The Mets will owe him between about $50,000 and $150,000 altogether.

Originally, the Mets were planning to insert an extra starter this week. But right now they’re having a hard enough time maintaining a five-man rotation.

“I don’t know that we’re in a position right now where we can talk about a sixth starter,” Mendoza said. “We gotta get through this stretch when we’re playing so many games in a row. Gotta go day by day. Hopefully, everybody stays healthy and we continue to throw the ball well.”

Injury updates

Megill (right shoulder strain) dealt with a virus the past couple of days, so he hasn’t resumed throwing yet. But his arm health is “moving in the right direction,” Mendoza said, so he should start playing catch soon.

The latest small step forward for Senga (right shoulder strain): throwing his offspeed pitches at “light intensity,” per Mendoza. He has not graduated to mound work yet.

Extra bases

Francisco Alvarez was “beat up,” Mendoza said, hence his absence from the lineup for a second time in four games . . . A smiling Drew Smith said his right leg was sore but fine after he crashed into a camera (and almost fell into the camera well) Monday night . . . The Mets traded reliever Michael Tonkin to the Twins — the organization that drafted him in the 30th round in 2008 — for cash. He had been designated for assignment recently.

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