The sidelines make for a tough view for the Mets’ T.J. Rivera.
The utility infielder with the strong record for hitting continues to rehab from his September Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, the club has opted in with Asdrubal Cabrera, re-signed Jose Reyes and picked up Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez on the free agent market. The infield where he regularly found chances is getting crowded. And he isn’t in a position yet to compete.
“I can’t worry about those things because I haven’t even thrown (a ball),” Rivera said on Tuesday night in Manhattan at the annual Munson Awards Dinner where he was to receive one of three Thurman Munson Awards, along with the Yankees’ David Robertson and former Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. “So I can’t be mad about things like that. I can only do what I can do and that’s get healthy and stay positive. There’s a lot of infielders in there and a lot of great players too. So things happen and I’m going to just be ready for when my time is called.”
Rivera batted .333 with an .821 OPS in 33 games during 2016 and followed that up with a .290 average and .760 OPS in 73 games last season before he injured his right ulnar collateral ligament and ultimately needed surgery.
His recovery timetable rules out spring training or Opening Day. He said he has not yet even begun to throw a baseball and that will happen before he picks up a bat. He has been working out at the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and going through the steps of rehab.
“I haven’t thrown. I am still doing my rehab and I’m starting to do some biometric things and I’m in the advanced part of the rehab, but I think the throwing is coming here soon,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly when because I don’t know but hopefully it’s pretty soon here because I’m ready to start throwing.”
The Mets have said they don’t expect that he could return before May. And so he goes through the process of getting back.
“Just taking it one step at a time and keeping everything else ready to go for when my time is up,” he said. “And it’s really just a slow process and over-and-over. It’s just little workouts, but it’s all for the right reasons. I seem to be on-track.”
Rivera said that throwing a ball is obviously the primary concern, however he is sounds like a player who cannot wait to start hitting, his forte.
“The hitting puts less stress on the elbow because it doesn’t bend it as far back. So I think that part comes after the throwing to make sure the elbow feels good in the ‘back’ position . . . where it’s stretching,” he said. “The hitting I think comes after the throwing and I don’t see it being a problem once I do get back to normal flexibility with my elbow and normal shape with it. I don’t see the hitting being the problem.”