The Mets absorbed body blows on two separate fronts on Friday. They announced the demotion of struggling Michael Conforto and revealed that elbow soreness will force rehabbing righty Zack Wheeler to visit Dr. James Andrews.
Now both face a certain degree of uncertainty.
It is Conforto’s second demotion this season. Even if he fights his way back to the big leagues, he’ll likely face the same diminished playing time that hitting coach Kevin Long believes has been a major factor in Conforto’s struggles.
Wheeler, meanwhile, has endured a bumpy rehabilitation from his Tommy John surgery in March 2015. If Andrews’ examination on Monday reveals another problem, Wheeler might run out of time for a return this season.
“I’m concerned about it,” manager Terry Collins said. “As we know, there’s no guarantees when you have these operations that everyone is going to bounce back from them.”
Wheeler hasn’t thrown since beginning his rehab assignment with a one-inning appearance in Port St. Lucie last Saturday.
Wheeler’s potential setback and Conforto’s latest demotion come as the Mets desperately try to pull themselves out of a 4-12 tailspin that has sent them crashing to one game below .500 for the first time since April.
After his return on July 18, Conforto started only 13 of 23 games, a product of the Mets’ hesitance to start him against lefties and an outfield that became even more crowded with lefthanded hitters with the addition of Jay Bruce.
In that span, Conforto hit .200 with a homer and three RBIs. For Collins, it was a sign of “pressing.”
With the Mets expected to face a string of lefties this week, Conforto’s playing time would take another hit, prompting the demotion.
“He never could get into any kind of rhythm and we weren’t able to get him consistent at-bats,” Long said. “I saw it in his eyes. He looks frustrated and a bit ticked off. Understandably so.”
Reliever Seth Lugo took Conforto’s spot on the roster. Lugo offers protection for lefty Jon Niese, who is dealing with a knee issue.
Jose Reyes went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored for Class A Brooklyn. He also played seven innings at third base . . . The Mets have shown no indication that they will pursue Carlos Gomez. who was designated for assignment by the Astros.