ATLANTA — Taijuan Walker’s back issue that ended his most recent start early and thrust his next one into question is a small “bulge in the disc,” he revealed Thursday.
He still might face the Phillies as scheduled Sunday, especially if he can complete a hoped-for light bullpen session Saturday, but he indicated that he is not inclined to pitch unless he feels 100% ready. Otherwise it is not worth risking further injury for the sake of that one game.
“I would say it doesn’t really make sense to push it,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there at 90% and make it worse and now I’m on the IL and I’m missing two, three, four weeks. It’s important that I listen to my body. I think down the stretch and the playoffs is probably where I’m most needed.”
Walker emphasized the minor nature of the bulging disc, as well as how much better he felt in the 48 hours after getting hurt.
“It was nothing concerning. So it was just something we gotta manage. It’s nothing concerning at all,” said Walker, who lasted two innings against Atlanta before exiting for what the Mets initially called back spasms. “Tuesday I would say was a lot, a lot of pain — one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt. So to (be) where I’m at today, I’m a little shocked. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.
“We don’t want to say for sure anything, but we’re not ruling (Sunday) out. But where I’m at today, I feel really good, which is surprising. I’m a little bit myself (compared) to where I was Tuesday.”
Walker referenced a similar early-season back problem — he wore a heating pad between innings during his May 12 start against the Nationals — but said this round of pain was significantly worse.
Righthander Jose Butto pitched for Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday but went only one inning, suggesting he still is in play as a backup option for Sunday.
Tomas Nido flew to Atlanta with the Mets on Sunday night before finding out he needed to go on the COVID-related injured list.
He felt well enough Wednesday, though, to drive back to New York — his only option, since he wasn’t allowed to fly, manager Buck Showalter said. That trip takes more than 14 hours.
The Mets might activate Nido as soon as Saturday, according to Showalter.
In claiming infielder Yolmer Sanchez off waivers from the Red Sox, the Mets cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by designating catcher Patrick Mazeika for assignment.
Sanchez, 30, will need to be added to the active roster upon joining the Mets on Friday. He is a career .243 hitter with a .654 OPS, but he plays second base — where he won a Gold Glove with the White Sox in 2019 — and third base and has dabbled at shortstop.
“Versatile player, switch-hitter, he can play a lot of positions, do a lot of things,” Showalter said. “Really well regarded in a lot of ways. We’ll see how it fits.”
Deven Marrero has been the Mets’ backup infielder in place of an injured Luis Guillorme this week.
Mazeika, who became something of a cult hero/fan favorite last season when he had a pair of walk-off fielder’s choice RBIs in his first days in the majors, seemed to have fallen out of favor with team decision-makers in recent weeks. He started once in the half-month after the All-Star break, then was left in the minors when a Nido fill-in was needed. They called up Michael Perez instead.
See you there
In addition to sending Chris Bassitt ahead to Philadelphia on Thursday, standard procedure so the next-day starter can get a full night of rest while the rest of the team travels late, the Mets did the same with their Saturday starters: Trevor Williams and David Peterson.
The Mets were unhappy with the Atlanta-imposed 7:20 p.m. start time for the series finale. Showalter said that by rule if a team’s ensuing flight is more than 2 1/2 hours, the getaway day needs to be an afternoon game. Commercial flights from Atlanta to Philly clock in at about 2 hours, 15 minutes.