PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — More than a year after Tommy John surgery, T.J. Rivera still wasn’t able to play in a spring training game because of elbow discomfort. So the Mets released the Bronx-born infielder on Saturday.
Rivera, 30, had surgery in September 2017 after an impressive first two seasons with the Mets. He has a career batting average of .304, eight home runs, 43 RBIs and a .780 OPS in 106 games in 2016 and 2017.
“I think we started to look at the playing time as we started to go forward in camp,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We also started to realize the number of guys that we have playing the infield positions were significant and as we built the roster over the course of this offseason, it was clear that some people were going to have to be removed from the equation, not only to compete at the major-league level but also to compete for our Triple-A roster, and we got to the point in camp where we just needed to make some tough decisions.”
If healthy, Rivera would have been in the mix for at least a utility job. With Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie injured, Rivera would have been a candidate for the Opening Day third-base job.
“In fairness to him, to give him the opportunity to go potentially find a better situation for him while there’s still time for him to continue his progression and then to ultimately go find a situation that’s better suited for him,” Van Wagenen said. “He’s continuing his progression. We’ll continue to help support him in his rehab protocol and we’ll make sure that we’re coordinating and helping him find a physical therapist to continue that work. From an evaluation standpoint, it’s been difficult because he hasn’t been able to compete or leapfrog the other players that we have because we haven’t been able to see him play to evaluate.”