PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets sent Steven Matz packing Tuesday morning.
By 9 a.m., he was gone.
Only it wasn’t to the Bronx, despite Matz reportedly being the subject of trade conversations with the Yankees, a team currently holding in-house auditions for a No. 5 starter.
Nope. The Mets shipped Matz home, or any place other than the Clover Park clubhouse, out of concerns the ailing lefthander — who started feeling sick Monday night — might potentially contaminate his teammates.
“I think it’s going around,” Matz said, sounding a bit nasally.
If that isn’t the understatement of the year. The Mets would like to keep their familiarity with Corona limited to being the adjacent neighborhood to Flushing, the HQ of Mama’s and the Lemon Ice King. As far as Matz goes, the Mets have to hope this malady is more of the typical spring training contagion, the kind that spikes in the Petri dish community that major leaguers inhabit this time of year. To this point, there has been no case of the coronavirus among MLB clubhouses yet.
Know what else tends to germinate as we get deeper into March? Trade chatter, as teams try to better identify roster holes and what it may take to patch them. So it wasn’t all that surprising to see Matz come up on the Yankees’ radar, as the New York Post reported Monday, even if the percent chance of such a swap — especially at this early date — is microscopically small.
We’d never say zero. But Yankees GM Brian Cashman didn’t put much credence into the idea Tuesday when asked about the Post’s story. Cashman even denied dialing up the Mets to discuss Matz.
“We have not talked to anybody,” Cashman said. “We have not reached out to one club looking for anything. I can tell you at this stage we have not engaged with any team about ‘What do you have available? What are you trying to do?’ It’s pretty early. We might very well have all the answers in the camp.
“Doesn’t mean we won’t [look elsewhere] but we’re still trying to determine what we have and what we don’t have. Over the course of the spring, probably closer to two weeks or so, those things might start percolating a little bit. But more likely than not there is no market available until after the June draft.”
Would Matz be a good fit in the Bronx as a No. 5? Of course. You know where else? Flushing. So the Mets shouldn’t be entertaining any thoughts — speculative or otherwise — about making him available at all, never mind to their pinstriped buddies in the next borough. And let’s forget the fantasy of the Mets extracting Miguel Andujar from the Yankees under any circumstances.
As it stands now, Andujar could very well be the Yankees’ Opening Day leftfielder, with Cashman saying Tuesday that both Giancarlo Stanton (calf strain) and Aaron Judge (shoulder/pectoral pain) are “unrealistic” for the start of the season. In Matz’s case, the Mets haven’t guaranteed him anything, besides a chance to compete for the No. 5 spot with Michael Wacha.
“I feel really good this spring and I’m really not thinking about that too much,” Matz said. “Just trying to get my work in and let the rest take care of itself.”
Occasionally, stuff does get in the way. Matz said his phone was “blowing up” Monday after the Yankees’ reported interest, so that became something else on his mind in addition to the creeping cold symptoms.
“I know how the media stuff swirls around, so I don’t think about it,” Matz said. “Unless I’m informed, then it would be different. But until I’m informed by Brodie [Van Wagenen[, I don’t think about it.”
Since this one involved the Yankees, that’s harder to do for a kid who starred at Ward Melville, with friends and family positioned on both sides of the Subway Series rivalry. For Matz, however, it’s tough to picture himself in another uniform. He pointed out how this is his 11th spring training with the Mets. To us, it seems like yesterday Matz had that three-hit, four-RBI debut at Citi Field with Grandpa Bert’s celebration going viral.
“I feel like I grew up in this organization,” Matz said. “So it does feel like home.”
He can rest easy for now. The only place Matz headed Tuesday was back to his condo, presumably for some NyQuil and a long nap. In the meantime, Matz had to scuttle his bullpen day and hope that he recovers enough to make Friday’s scheduled start against the Astros at West Palm Beach.
Just being linked to the M*A*S*H-unit Yankees was enough to sicken Matz. But he has a bug to kick and a job to win with the Mets, as soon as they let him back into the building.