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Josh Edgin's elbow injury highlights Mets' dearth of lefthanded relievers

Josh Edgin reacts after he gave up a

Josh Edgin reacts after he gave up a two-run home run to Ryan Howard with two outs during the ninth inning to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. (Sept. 19, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Like a homeowner who has discovered a thinning patch of carpet in the living room, the Mets faced a decision during the offseason. Was the blemish important enough to spend on a repair? Or could it be covered with a rug and go unnoticed?

The Mets chose the latter, and now that Josh Edgin faces the prospect of Tommy John surgery, that decision might come back to haunt them.

"I'm not happy where we are with our lefthanded situation," general manager Sandy Alderson said.

Edgin, 28, entered camp as the only lefthanded reliever with a clear-cut spot on the roster. Except in this case, it wasn't a spot of carpet that was thinning, but a ligament in his left elbow.

An MRI revealed what Alderson called "laxity" and a "stretched" ligament caused by a bony mass that has caused pain. Edgin said it is essentially the same problem that sidelined him last August.

"It's disappointing, yes," said Edgin, who is coming off the best season of his career. "Really disappointing. We're going to have a great year this year, whether it's with me or without me."

Edgin excelled last season, posting a 1.32 ERA in 271/3 innings in 47 appearances. Now he must choose between rehab and pitching with a compromised elbow or undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Even with rehab, Alderson said Edgin "likely" will begin the season on the disabled list. He remains undecided, though he's expected to make a decision in the coming days.

With aspirations of contending in the NL East, the Mets find themselves with a mostly unproven collection of lefties in the bullpen.

Long plagued with questions about their ability to spend on a competitive team, the Mets ultimately devoted little of their roughly $100-million payroll toward lefthanded relievers.

Their inaction came even after Alderson identified lefty relief as a need leading up to the winter meetings.

When asked about the team's internal candidates, Alderson said at the time, "There's not experience, proven depth there."

The Mets never seriously engaged the free-agent market for lefthanded relievers, with top choices Andrew Miller (Yankees, four years, $36 million) and Zach Duke (White Sox, three years, $15 million) out of their price range. The Mets deemed the remaining choices unworthy of big-league deals.

"Again, it's not the financial issue, it's the commitment to the player," Alderson said. "So if we have everybody sort of categorized the same way, we'd like them all to compete."

According to a source, another thought played into the Mets' decision. After looking at the shortage of lefthanded power bats in the league, a belief emerged within the organization that a lack of lefty relievers might not be as debilitating as in past years.

Even with the likes of Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper in the NL East, that thought apparently prevailed.

Alderson also ruled out manager Terry Collins' assertion that the Mets could break camp without a lefty in the bullpen.

The Mets' only lefty additions include Rule 5 draft choice Sean Gilmartin, who until now has worked as a starter in the Twins' and Braves' organizations. The Mets also re-signed Scott Rice, whom they had parted ways with earlier in the offseason after he underwent elbow surgery.

The other two options include a pair of minor-leaguers: hard-throwing but command-challenged prospect Jack Leathersich and Dario Alvarez, who allowed four runs in the Mets' 11-9 win over the Nationals.

The four candidates have a combined Grapefruit League ERA of 15.43, with Alvarez's the lowest at a still extremely high 12.00.

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