A pack of ice shielded from view one of the most dangerous weapons in all of baseball. Now, the question facing the Mets is whether Juan Lagares' cannon arm could be shut down for the remainder of the season.
"I just want to play," said Lagares, who has an achy right elbow. "If I feel good, I want to play. But you never know because I use the arm for everything, so let's see how I feel."
An MRI exam on Wednesday revealed a sprain in Lagares' elbow, which might derail the end of a Gold Glove-worthy season. For now, the Mets have steered clear of making any pronouncements, although manager Terry Collins said Lagares surely will "miss a few days." Beyond that, Lagares said he will be re-examined Sunday.
Until then, the centerfielder won't know how much longer he will be sidelined. Only nine games remain in the season after last night's 4-3 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field.
"I really don't know for sure," Lagares said. "They want to get together and they want to talk."
Lagares, 25, emerged as a bright spot in what is shaping up to be the Mets' sixth consecutive losing season. Although he entered the season with doubts about his bat, Lagares is hitting .281 with four homers and 47 RBIs in 115 games. Overall, his production has been roughly league average.
His glove has been brilliant -- as expected.
Long considered a defensive savant, Lagares has established himself as one of the best centerfielders in baseball, a product of his range, hands and powerful arm. After recording 15 assists a year ago, Lagares has only six this season, likely because teams are thinking twice about challenging him.
But it was while making a throw that Lagares first sensed an issue. That happened during a three-game series in Cincinnati nearly two weeks ago. After Lagares cut loose with a throw, he felt discomfort in his elbow, a sensation that lingered.
In the fourth inning Tuesday night, while making a hard throw, Lagares said the discomfort flared once more. This time, it set off a red flag.
"Sometimes, when I throw hard, I can feel it," Lagares said. "[Tuesday] night I felt it a little more, and that's when I said I have to check to make sure."
Lagares likened the injury to an arm issue he dealt with early in the 2008 season, when he was still a shortstop at Class-A Savannah. At the time, the injury pushed back the start of his season to June.
Said Collins: "Obviously, we're going to let him rest for as long as he needs right now, because his arm is a big part of his game."
Injuries have plagued Lagares, especially early in his career, one of the reasons that his emergence was relatively quiet until last season. Some of those issues have been self-inflicted, stemming from Lagares' willingness to sacrifice his body to make a play.
Yet Collins believes that Lagares' approach propelled him to the big leagues. It's a mentality he doesn't want to see changed.
"I'm not going to ask him to back off in any phase of the game," Collins said. "I think there's only one way to play it, and Juan plays it that way."