PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When the rain came Tuesday in the third inning, a steady downpour that interrupted the game for nearly an hour at First Data Field, it was as if someone way, way upstairs was trying to send the Mets a message.
Haven’t you had enough for one day?
Yoenis Cespedes’ sore shoulder. Jacob deGrom’s stiff back. Those were the surprise additions to the Mets’ morning medical update, joining previous residents Juan Lagares (hamstring) and Dominic Smith (quadriceps).
While Cespedes’s shoulder condition doesn’t seem serious, just typical early-spring stiffness, the delay caused by deGrom’s minor back issue could mess with his schedule enough to potentially put the first week of the regular season in question. That’s how Mickey Callaway framed it anyway.
“Probably not totally clear on that,” Callaway said. “We’ll have to see how his throwing progression goes and go from there.”
The new manager — a former pitching coach — estimated that each starter likely would need a minimum of five starts to be ready for the opening week. And even with deGrom recovered physically, it’s still going to be a few days before he makes his Grapefruit League debut.
As for Tuesday’s on-field events, there was still a game to finish against the Astros, and that also left a mark when Anthony Swarzak, the Mets’ offseason bullpen prize, injured his left calf as he scrambled to cover first base.
Five games into the Grapefruit League schedule, the Mets already are giving the MRI machine a workout, and now Swarzak is scheduled for some tube time Wednesday. Two batters earlier, before the rain arrived, Swarzak completed the same first-base flip play without incident. Prompted again, however, Swarzak felt a “grab” at his left calf as he bolted from the mound, then fumbled the toss from Adrian Gonzalez.
After a brief discussion with the trainer, Swarzak exited under his own power, which he suggested was a reason for optimism because he didn’t have to be hauled off in a golf cart. It’s all relative around the Mets, who are practicing clubhouse triage before the calendar has flipped to March, and Swarzak, despite being new to this MASH unit, has learned to cling to the positive.
“There were some good signs,” Swarzak said of the incident. “It wasn’t a situation where I had to hit the deck and pray for the best.”
No, but that’s probably how Mets fans are feeling right now, still scarred from last season’s medical trauma, and worried about suffering through a sequel in 2018. There have been a few freaky moments to date. Swarzak said he’s never had leg muscle issues before — not even cramps. And Tim Tebow sprained his left ankle last week by stepping on a sprinkler head in the outfield.
It is early in spring training, however, and the Mets’ push for transparency in listing their injuries actually may backfire in instances when players are merely experiencing typical February ailments, such as aching muscles. That seems to be the case with Cespedes, who crushed a long home run in Sunday’s debut but has been sidelined since with shoulder soreness he characterized as routine for him.
“It’s something that I’m not worried about,” Cespedes said through his interpreter. “All the time, every season, I get like this because I spent the whole offseason without throwing a ball, so I’m used to this. It’s not something I should be concerned or worried about.”
Cespedes intends to return to the lineup Friday, so the expectation is the shoulder should be in shape by then. In addition to his revamped workout regimen this offseason, which included yoga and more running, Cespedes reiterated his plan to give up golf, mostly in an effort to stay healthy. Considering what the Mets already are going through on the medical front, every little bit should help.
“There are many players who when they’re in a slump, they go play golf to try to work on their hitting,” Cespedes said. “In my case, I will not do it, because I choose to rest, and rest my legs, instead of doing that, so I can be more relaxed and more rested. Also for my legs to have more time to heal.”
As for deGrom, his back stiffness appeared to be gone by Tuesday morning, and maybe the Mets got lucky with him. As soon as it crept up, deGrom went for tests Monday, and when those came back clean, he threw again Tuesday without any issues. Next for deGrom will be throwing off the mound Wednesday, followed by another bullpen session before the Mets slot him into the rotation.
“We wanted to play it safe versus trying to push through something and hurting something more,” deGrom said. “But after getting it looked at — we actually did get pictures of it, and they all came back good. So now it’s just how I feel, and today I felt great.”