A week and a half removed from their only hit-by-pitch-induced injury of the year, the Mets’ hope that Starling Marte returns before the end of the regular season remains just that — hope.
Marte said there is only “a good possibility” that his fractured right middle finger allows him to get back in the lineup before the playoffs. Manager Buck Showalter characterized his mental approach as being “cautious about it.”
“You can’t put something in some hydraulic chamber and mesh the bone together overnight,” Showalter said Saturday, which was the first day Marte was eligible to return from the injured list (though the Mets had signaled for a week that that would not happen). “We know confidently what we’re dealing with here and what the caution should be about going too fast. So it’s kind of when and not if if we go by normal bone healing.
“But it could be slower. It could be faster. Some people think at a certain mark you should see not drastic but a significant jump in how it feels. We haven’t reached that threshold yet. I’d be more concerned if we had reached that two-week period and we weren’t starting to move toward playing with it.”
Recent visible, tangible progress for Marte included his ability to curl his middle finger along with the rest of them around a pool stick while playing with Jacob deGrom and others in the Mets’ clubhouse Saturday afternoon. And he no longer is wearing protective padding. Neither of those were true a week ago.
But when Marte on Thursday tried throwing and hitting, it hurt so he stopped. He doesn’t know when he will try again.
“We’re just going to wait until the pain subsides a little more and hope it doesn’t hurt the next time we try,” he said through an interpreter.
While sidelined because of his finger, Marte also has been able to rest/address his lingering groin issue and “some other things that have been bothering him,” Showalter said.
Marte is racing the calendar. After Saturday, the Mets have only 15 games remaining. Their postseason schedule will begin Oct. 7 or Oct. 11 (depending on whether they win a first-round bye).
The other significant date to keep in mind: Sept. 30. That is when the Mets open a three-game series in Atlanta that looks to have major NL East implications.
“We’re going to see how things go,” Marte said.
Showalter more than once mentioned the two-week checkpoint as significant but declined to specify what is supposed to happen then. Tuesday will mark two weeks since Marte was hit on the finger by a pitch.
“The acuteness of the soreness should start abating some at (some point),” Showalter said. “We’ll see if it follows that path. If it follows that path, that’s where we’ll be looking at.”
Without Marte, the Mets have leaned on a bunch of players to fill his roles. Tyler Naquin, Darin Ruf and Jeff McNeil have played rightfield (with McNeil there meaning Luis Guillorme gets to start at second base). Francisco Lindor mostly has batted second, with Mark Canha and Pete Alonso also seeing time there.
The Mets have scored four runs or fewer in six of 11 games since Marte got hurt. His injury has been a noteworthy one for a team that has not had to deal with extended absences for its best hitters.
“Obviously, he’s a good player and we miss him,” Showalter said. “But I’ve tried to make this a point of emphasis all year: This is going to happen. We’ll get him back at some point. Guys are getting opportunities to contribute to the needs of the club. But that’s happened all year.”