The question was innocuous, the kind that is answered almost daily by every manager in Major League Baseball. One night after Jay Bruce was pulled from a game because of back tightness, manager Terry Collins was asked about his status.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss any injury situations,” Collins said Wednesday. “So, he’ll be in there when he’s in there.”
The awkward answer was the latest example of what has clearly been a new policy instituted by the Mets, whose response to season-long criticism for their questionable injury management has been to offer status updates that are intentionally vague.
On a day that catcher Travis d’Arnaud was activated from the disabled list, Collins ducked the question about Bruce, even after the outfielder declared himself day-to-day, and said, “I don’t think it’s serious.”
Still, the Mets have been tight-lipped publicly about when some of their banged-up players are expected to be back, some of whom were placed on the DL only after protracted and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to keep them on the field.
For instance, neither Collins nor general manager Sandy Alderson have offered any firm timeline on a return date for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, whom the Mets tried to keep on the field with a hamstring injury that ultimately sent him to the disabled list.
Alderson said recently that the Mets would be looking at changes to their injury protocols, including daily briefings between the GM and the training staff.
Judging by recent efforts to offer only scant information publicly, it appears secrecy rather than transparency is also among the changes, though similar efforts haven’t stuck.
Despite the policy shift, the injury train has continued to roll, with Tommy Milone the latest to get aboard.
The lefthander was claimed on waivers to fill out a rotation that has been swamped by injuries. But he found himself on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday with a sprained knee, with d’Arnaud taking the roster spot.
The Mets are leaning toward starting Josh Smoker in place of Milone on Saturday. It would be Smoker’s first big-league start, though it comes after he made two starts in the minor leagues, which were designed to force him into using his entire repertoire of pitches.
Smoker had been a starter early in his career before injuries pushed him into a relief role, which is how he reached the big leagues.
Smoker pitched one inning of relief Wednesday night and gave up the go-ahead homer in loss to Padres.
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