(Matt Harvey in the 1986 throwback on Sunday – Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
The Mets pitching staff is arguably the best in the majors and one of the best ever, but there is no defense for injuries, no way to prevent health getting in the way of their quest for a World Championship.
The first health scare came at the end of spring training, when Matt Harvey suffered with blood clots, and passed them through his body before it could have become a far worse issue.
On Sunday morning, with Harvey set to make his second start of the season, another star Mets pitcher’s health has become a concern.
Jacob deGrom left Friday’s home opener with tightness in his back, and the tightness in his lat muscle has forced the Mets to pull him back from his next start on Wednesday against Miami.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of deGrom, “He’s skipped (in the rotation), gonna get skipped. It’s improved, but not enough,” while also saying he wasn’t aware if deGrom will get an MRI done.
On Sunday morning, deGrom said, “I would say it’s quite better today. I think we’re going to err on the side of caution, though, this early in the season…We’re pretty happy with how it’s improving already.”
On if there will be any additional tests for deGrom, Collins said, “I don’t know. I talked to him this morning, he said he felt better, it’s just not where we need to have it. he’s not gonna throw today, yeah, it’s gonna get a little bit warmer tomorrow, but I’m not comfortable having him throw tomorrow and then pitch him two days later. So we have decided to skip him (Wednesday). We’re gonna hopefully get through today with Matt getting us deep into the game to where we don’t have to use a lot of the bullpen…We may have to use Logan (Verrett) for an inning today, but right now, he’s the guy scheduled to pitch on Wednesday.”
Collins did have to use Verrett on Snuday, as he brought him on in the ninth inning with the Mets down 4-2. Verrett walked the eighth hitter in the Phillies lineup, and gave up a double to the right-center field gap to pinch-hitter Andres Blanco that made it 5-2 Philadelphia.
Collins said to the question of Harvey’s health scare and deGrom’s injury showing nothing is guaranteed despite high expectations, “Well, I could have told you that February 1st, that nothing’s guaranteed. You know, you enter every season, every team in baseball has expectations of certain things. You know, Chicago Cubs lost one of the best young hitters in baseball (Kyle Schwarber) for the season, so there’s no guarantees what’s going to happen. All you know is that, in a perfect world with not injuries, we’ve got a nice looking pitching staff. They can certainly all have an issue where we’ve got to regroup and adjust, and that’s what we’re going to have to do on Wednesday. It does show you that nothing’s etched in stone.”
It also shows proves another baseball axiom that “you can’t have enough pitching,” even with the Mets gifted starting rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler, who is still on his way back from Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of last season. Wheeler will be having surgery on his surgically-repaired elbow to remove a stitch that failed to dissolve.
Harvey and deGrom have also undergone Tommy John surgery, and Harvey missed the 2014 season recovering from the surgery.
Steven Matz missed a lot of time in the second half of the 2015 season with a torn lat muscle, after trying to pitch through the pain.
deGrom said of Matz, “Seeing what he went through…I think at the time it’s smart not to try to push it.”
Collins said of the possibility of putting deGrom on the disabled list, “Again, I have not talked to Sandy. I just right now, walking out of the training room after a talk with Jake this morning, we’ve just decided we’re not going to take the chance. We kind of said, when he was so sore the day after (his start on Friday), that there’s a good chance he was not going to pitch, so we will let the doctors decide what the next move is and go from there.”
On if this lat muscle injury is the reason deGrom has had issues with velocity, Collins said, “I don’t believe it is, or else we wouldn’t have pitched him the other day. So, if you thought for one second there was an issue, we wouldn’t have run him out there. I think his arm is still trying to bounce back from last season.”
On Sunday, Harvey took the mound against the Phillies and was looking to bounce back from his Kansas City start last Sunday on Opening Night, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Harvey looked good at time, but was hit hard, as the Phillies touched him up for three runs and six hits in six innings, while only striking out three and walking two.
The breaking point for Harvey came in the sixth, as Odubel Herrera hit a two-run homer to deep right field that made it 3-0.
Harvey then proceeded to give up a single to Maikel Franco and walk Ryan Howard for the second time in the game. He got Carlos Ruiz to ground into a double play to end the inning. Harvey was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning, as he reached 95 pitches.
For Harvey, these first two starts of the season haven’t been great, but he has given the Mets the chance to win each game. The Mets need for from him than just a battler, they need him to show he’s an ace, especially if there is concern with deGrom and Wheeler not back until June.
Collins said of what could be missing with Harvey, “I don’t know. I know Dan’s (Warthen) trying to study if there’s anything to tackle. what he’s made is some bad pitches. The pitch to Herrera was a slider right in the middle; otherwise he made great pitches, he was sailing along. It’s the same thing the other day in Kansas City – got off to a good start, and all of a suddent, he hit a wall. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline mix or pitch count or whatever it is. We’ve had this discussion in the past, we’re not giving him much room for error either. We aren’t scoring and he can’t make a mistake, and then you hang a pitch and damage is done, you kind of get down on yourself a little bit, which it’s only human nature to do that.”
On if Harvey’s slider, which looked good in spring training, is eluding him, Collins said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. They’re not all going to be perfect. He’s not going to throw every pitch in a perfect spot. You could have the best breakers in the world, once in a while, you’re gonna get on the side of one, it’s not going to have the spin you want, and it’s gonna be left in the middle of the zone, you just hope it’s not hit hard.”