The Mets' Javier Báez and Francisco Lindor look on from...

The Mets' Javier Báez and Francisco Lindor look on from the dugout during an MLB game against the Dodgers at Citi Field on Aug. 13. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Let’s go with the good news first.

Francisco Lindor, the only Met in full pinstriped whites for Sunday’s early work, did just about everything possible baseball-wise in his rehab from a strained left oblique. Noah Syndergaard, shirtless again with blue shorts and cleats, threw some and ran a bit in the outfield.

We’re told both are progressing very well. Luis Rojas floated the idea Lindor could be activated when the Mets return from next week’s West Coast trip. Syndergaard is supposed to be facing hitters any minute now.

The bad news? It’s already mid-August. The Mets are running out of season.

And that’s troubling, especially with the foggiest of timetables for Javy Baez (back spasms) and Jacob deGrom (elbow). September always seems so far away, until it’s not, and missing all of these players for the toughest stretch of the year -- Dodgers, Giants, Dodgers, Giants -- is particularly terrible timing.

Losing players to injury is not exclusively a Mets’ thing. Look around the league. Take a glance across town at the Yankees, who have a better roster on the IL than the one they used the past week.

But aside from Lindor, who apparently may look to skip a rehab assignment in order to expedite his return, who can the Mets truly count on for this final playoff push? They’ve been holding their breath on deGrom since the All-Star break, and based on his spotty health for most of ’21, it’s difficult to envision him coming back at anywhere near his dominant self -- if at all.


The disappearance of Baez from view also is concerning. What began as relatively benign hip soreness has morphed into back spasms, and a stay on the 10-day DL that now could be extended beyond that. Until Baez actually gets on the field for any semblance of a workout, you can’t really start the clock, and Rojas was pumping the brakes before Sunday night’s game against the Dodgers.

"I still want to see how he progresses with the treatment," Rojas said. "He hasn’t done any baseball activity for the last couple of days. So if he’s not able to do those, getting close to the 10 days, then it’s probably not realistic that he’s going to get activated. So I want to see how he responds and then see how early he can take grounders, maybe take BP outside."

The big hook of grabbing Baez at the trade deadline was using him to sub for Lindor until the two could be paired as one of the more dynamic double-play combos in the sport. But Baez batted .171 (6-for-35) with 14 Ks, two homers and three RBIs in 10 games for the Mets before exiting the Aug. 10 game in Philly with the hip/back issue.

Since the Baez deal, the Mets are 5-9, with the NL’s worst batting average (.218) and ranked 14th in OPS (.644) -- above only the Pirates (.628). Presumably, pairing Lindor and Baez should fire up a lifeless offense, but what can the Mets expect from their $341-million shortstop if he tries to jump straight into their lineup from the IL after going five weeks (or more) without playing in a competitive game?

"I would love to do that," Lindor said Sunday. "I want to be with the team as much as I can. But at the end of the day, the trainers know best, and whatever they decide, I’ve got to be on board with it."

On the pitching side, anything from deGrom feels like a bonus at the point. But Syndergaard remains an intriguing possibility, and the best course of action with him is trending toward the bullpen, as the Mets are rapidly losing their window to stretch him out for use as a starter.

Typically, a pitcher would need a month to get to starter-length innings, and Syndergaard -- who’s already had one TJ-related setback -- can’t be rushed for that role. He hasn’t thrown a pitch that’s counted in almost two years. Plus, the Mets’ bullpen seems to be running on fumes lately, throwing the NL’s second-most innings (118 1/3) since the All-Star break and ranking third in appearances (109).

Having Syndergaard reprise his 2015 Division Series role as late-inning intimidator would be a welcome relief for a bullpen that badly needs a voltage boost. Even then, Syndergaard needs to be handled with caution, as he’d be pushing the throttle from zero to (throwing) 100 mph again.

But all of these remain theoretical scenarios at the moment. If we’ve learned anything from the Mets, it’s that we shouldn’t count on a player’s recovery until they’ve actually recovered. And the clock is ticking.


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