ATLANTA — Finally, a reprieve.
After weeks of being bombarded by bad news and bad breaks, the Mets on Monday finally had something go their way: Noah Syndergaard’s right hamstring injury — the one that had him limping off the mound Saturday — was determined to be a low-grade strain, manager Mickey Callaway said, which could potentially mean he misses only one start. That afternoon, Syndergaard, with no visible limp as he strode through the visitors’ clubhouse, played catch and did drills, and briefly told reporters that he felt well.
“I feel great. It’s really encouraging,” Syndergaard said, adding that he hopes to only miss the one start but that it’s also too early to tell. He said he felt “just a slight pull, nothing too strenuous at all…I haven’t really had any limitations.”
Syndergaard was slated to pitch on Thursday against the Cubs before landing on the injured list, and Callaway said they would look within the organization — either the bullpen or the minor leagues — to find a stopgap. Because the Mets don’t anticipate needing a more permanent replacement, it “probably does make it a little bit easier to take somebody out of the pen and plug the hole,” Callaway said. Seth Lugo has proved himself too valuable a piece to be moved out of the bullpen at present, but Wilmer Font, who pitched in relief Sunday, could get the call.
Font would be pitching on three-days’ rest after tossing three innings of scoreless relief, totaling 55 pitches.
“It makes [Font] very intriguing,” Callaway said of his previous outing. “The fact that he got to throw the amount of pitches he threw kind of stretched out and definitely puts his name [in the running].”
Font is 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA, and has made three starts this year, along with 16 appearances out of the bullpen.
Though it seems far less likely, Anthony Kay — the Ward Melville product who was recently promoted to Syracuse — could also be an option, though he struggled in his one start against Triple-A hitters. As is Walter Lockett, who had a rough start to his major-league career with the Padres last year, but has been impressive in Syracuse, going 0–1 with a 3.28 ERA.
Brandon Nimmo, who said last month that he was suffering from a bulging disc in his neck, traveled to Los Angeles to receive a second opinion from Dr. Robert Watkins, Callaway said. Watkins was the doctor who worked with David Wright before spinal stenosis ultimately claimed his career. The team has said that Nimmo is suffering from neck inflammation — which has made it difficult to turn his head to the right, and apparently was reaggravated on Friday, when he was a late scratch from his rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse. The 26-year-old outfielder has been sidelined since May 22.
“We’re going to continue to try to figure out why his neck is stiff and take the appropriate actions,” Callaway said. “We don’t know what’s going on, so we don’t have a timeline for anything because of that. You hope he gets back as quick as possible because he can help this offense.”
And some more injury updates. Jason Vargas, who left the game in the fourth inning Sunday after apparently hurting himself on a swing, only suffered from cramps and is in line to make his next start, Callaway said… Lefthander Justin Wilson likely will need one more rehab start, scheduled for Tuesday, and then potentially make his return, Callaway said.
. Callaway said he’d be open to using his most consistent reliever, Seth Lugo, more if the situation warrants it. The Mets have shied away from using him in back-to-back games, or really even for multiple innings this month, but Lugo, who has a 2.36 ERA, has been a stabilizing presence for a bullpen that has all but fallen apart. Since April 7, Lugo has a 1.17 ERA, with six walks and 41 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. Entering Monday, the bullpen had allowed at least one run in each of the Mets’ last seven games, going 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA. Callaway said there’ll be nights in which Lugo will have to pitch the seventh and eighth and create a bridge to Edwin Diaz, but that likely means he won’t be available for days after, meaning the Mets will have to be strategic. Same with pitching on back-to-back days.
“I think we’re willing to do that based on how he feels,” Callaway said. “[Pitch him] one inning or two, [and then] you have to live with the next couple days.”