A quick turnaround for the Mets became even quicker when their departure from Miami late Wednesday was delayed by random postgame drug tests.
The logistics were a hassle to begin with: a 6 p.m. start Wednesday in South Florida, followed by a plane ride to Queens and a 1 p.m. home opener Thursday.
After the drug tests — which are overseen by an independent third party, in accordance with MLB and the MLBPA’s joint drug agreement — the Mets didn’t leave Marlins Park until about 11 p.m., players said.
The Mets finally arrived at Citi Field at about 3 a.m., according to a half-dozen players who expressed frustration with the extra wait. They reported back to the ballpark at about 10 a.m., and the coaching staff ended up canceling batting practice Thursday because of the short night.
Then the Mets sleepwalked through a 4-0 loss to the Nationals. Fourteen of their 27 outs were strikeouts.
“I don’t think I can speak on their behalf, but I can only imagine they were kind of tired,” said Noah Syndergaard, who flew earlier Wednesday because he was the next day’s starting pitcher. “I don’t think we were in a proper situation to win a ballgame based on the rest of the guys’ sleep and travel.”
Brandon Nimmo, one of the players’ union representatives for the team, said the Mets took part in three rounds of drug tests during the three-game series against the Marlins. He called the last one, postgame on a getaway day, “abnormal.”
“We were like, well, that really tops things off,” Nimmo said. “[Mets players were] definitely upset about it. It’s random and you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s just part of the game. It was unfortunate. It’s bad timing. It made a short night even shorter — especially for the home opener. But it’s part of baseball. You just have to roll with the punches.”
Home teams pick the start times for games. The Marlins didn’t do the Mets any favors by moving the game up by only an hour from a usual first pitch, but the Mets still picked an early-afternoon start time for their first home game, as most openers in franchise history have been.
After the Mets swept the Marlins, it was time for drug tests. First baseman Dominic Smith didn’t hear nature’s call.
“After the game, sometimes you have to wait for guys if they just don’t have to pee,” Nimmo said, laughing. “We ended up waiting for Dom until 11 o’clock. We’ve all been there. It’s hard. Us playing the game an hour early didn’t even matter.”
Smith confirmed: “Yep. They had to wait for me to pee. The bus was at 10:05. I got done peeing at 10:45. But, I mean, I got us out of BP today, so some people were happy about that. I can let you know that.”
Smith, one of only two players tested Wednesday night, said he initially didn’t provide a satisfactory quantity, so he started chugging water. After fulfilling his duties, he ended up using the bathroom three times on the way to the airport and five times on the flight to New York, he said.
Manager Mickey Callaway downplayed the unusual travel schedule, noting that the players could power through on short sleep and catch up on the off day Friday.
Nimmo and his teammates were consistent in not using the travel and urine test delay as an excuse. But they acknowledged it didn’t help, either.
“We all tried to get ready as best we could,” Nimmo said. “It’s just the way the game goes.”