ATLANTA — There was a little good news, finally. And then there was perplexing news, again.
Mets lefthander Steven Matz, who left Tuesday night’s game with a strained left middle finger, will not require a stint on the disabled list, Mickey Callaway said, and potentially could make his next start. Matz, after cruising through three innings, hurt himself on a swing and miss in the top of the fourth, and though he didn’t feel discomfort immediately, he certainly felt it when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning. Matz underwent an MRI Wednesday in New York and was diagnosed with what Callaway called a “slight strain.”
Callaway said Matz’s injury was “not even in the same ballpark” as the ligament strain that’s sidelined Noah Syndergaard, although he, too, is expected back soon. “It was more of the bat hitting that middle knuckle,” he said. “It’s a finger issue, that’s it.”
Though not the best outcome, it’s certainly far better than what the Mets endured the previous two days, in which three players were sent to the DL. They already were running thin — by Wednesday, they had 11 on the DL — and it didn’t help that they played Tuesday with only 24 players, which assistant general manager John Ricco said was due to logistical issues.
That’s where the head scratching comes in.
Ricco said Wednesday that playing shorthanded was a result of many converging events. For one, he said, they weren’t immediately certain that Syndergaard would land on the DL, and thus didn’t know they’d have to fill a roster spot.
Additionally, though the Mets’ Triple-A team is moving to Syracuse next year, it’s currently in Las Vegas, so players can’t travel to the Eastern Time Zone as quickly as the team would prefer. The MLB taxi squad rule says a team can recall a player for an “optional assignment” for one day, then send him back down if he isn’t activated. After Syndergaard complained of discomfort Monday, the Mets did not avail themselves of that precaution, though it is unclear why.
General manager Sandy Alderson was not on this trip — he was with Matz in New York, Ricco said — but he likely will address the issue further Thursday, when the Mets return home. Alderson speaks to the media at the start of every homestand.
“Part of it was the question of whether or not [Syndergaard] would go on the DL,” Ricco said. “There are rules about taxi squads, how you can’t just have guys sitting around and waiting to be activated. There were some travel logistics. And you’re down a starter, so in effect, we really weren’t short.”
The Mets were at a full 25 Wednesday, though it did involve some major-league Tetris. The Mets called up lefty Buddy Baumann and righty Tim Peterson from Las Vegas, and righty Scott Copeland from Double-A Binghamton. The moves meant the Mets played Wednesday with a three-man bench.
Additionally, neither Peterson nor Copeland was on the 40-man roster, so the Mets were forced to designate P.J. Conlon for assignment. Juan Lagares also was moved to the 60-day DL. Phillip Evans and Jacob Rhame were sent back to Las Vegas to make room on the 25-man.