The Mets are back — and busy.
Their coronavirus situation deemed resolved by MLB, the Mets will resume their season Tuesday with a doubleheader against the Marlins at Citi Field, the start of nine games in six days and 34 games in 34 days to finish the scheduled regular season.
Included in that stretch is a mega-sized Subway Series that starts Friday: five games at Yankee Stadium, with doubleheaders Friday and Sunday. The Yankees and Mets also will play Sept. 3 at Citi Field, the last make-up of four games the Mets missed.
Altogether, this is a best-case scenario becoming reality after daily COVID-19 testing throughout the weekend yielded no positives beyond the original two, one player and one coach, last week.
For the Mets, stuck at 12-14, the next half-dozen days have the potential to make or break the season.
“It reminds us that we’re not immune to exposure,” general manger Brodie Van Wagenen said. “When we started back up, I think there was an assumption and an expectation that baseball was going to have positive cases. It’s a tribute to what has been done that there have been so few cases, but it’s a reminder that we’re not immune to it. We have to be smart and careful every day. We can’t let up.
“If we are lucky enough to only have two cases so far during the season and we don’t have any more going forward, we’ll consider ourselves very fortunate and be proud of the protocols that are in place and be proud of our ability to execute them.”
Van Wagenen’s video conference with reporters were the first public comments from anyone with the organization since this began Thursday afternoon, when the Mets received word that two of them tested positive for COVID-19 — setting off a chaotic few hours during which they worried about those guys, wondered about their schedule and managed the logistics of returning to New York and being tested further.
“It was sobering,” Van Wagenen said.
The Mets’ pair of positives remain in Miami, having gotten through what the team believes were the worst of their symptoms. They never came close to going to the hospital, according to Van Wagenen, who declined to name them.
“We’re feeling much more comfortable about their safety,” he said. “Our hope is that they’re through the worst of it and that they can continue to recover quickly.”
The other four members of the traveling party who stayed in Miami — after qualifying as close contacts of the pair of positives — were set to return to New York by Monday night. Van Wagenen declined to say how they were getting back from Florida.
The Mets began dealing with the on-field part of this challenge by practicing on Monday at Citi Field, their first team activity in four days.
Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner planned to meet with each pitcher, according to Van Wagenen, to try to determine who can pitch when — a daunting question given the upcoming workload. Each player completed a different level of baseball/physical activity while they self-isolated, so it isn’t necessarily as simple as rolling them out based on who is most rested.
Van Wagenen said he was “hopeful” that David Peterson (left shoulder inflammation) and Michael Wacha (right shoulder inflammation) will be able to return from the injured list this week. Steven Matz, demoted to the bullpen last week, “may well need to be a starter we count on,” Van Wagenen added.
“We're going to be creative in terms of how we deploy the guys,” he said.
Benefiting the Mets this week: MLB and the players’ union agreed to make doubleheader games seven innings each, adopting the minor-league norm in an effort to minimize the physical burden put on players.
Van Wagenen said that when that change was made this month, he thought it “seemed to make sense.” Now that the Mets are experiencing a coronavirus-induced scheduling crunch first-hand, he said he views it as “a necessity.”
“Trying to cover so many games in such few days, it’s a challenge for everybody,” Van Wagenen said.
Another quirk: Because it was a Miami home game that got postponed Thursday, the Mets will be the away team during the second game Tuesday at Citi Field. The Mets also will be the home team twice out of the five games at Yankee Stadium.
That will be weird, but so is much of this pandemic season.
“It’s a challenge, but this is a year that can’t be about excuses,” Van Wagenen said. “We are not the only team that has faced adversity with scheduling, we’re not the only team that’s faced adversity with losing players or coaches for a period of time, and everyone has been faced with their own injury challenges. We can’t be looking at what we don’t have or what our challenges may be going forward.”