Mets seek third straight trip to playoffs
New York — Injuries hit the New York Mets where it hurt last season, and they're becoming a pain again.
With opening day fast approaching, those familiar reports of aches and irritation began cropping up at camp. Part-time center fielder Juan Lagares strained an oblique and, more unsettling, pitcher Steven Matz was scratched from a scheduled start because of tenderness in his left elbow.
Matz, who underwent Tommy John surgery early in his professional career, had bone spurs removed from the elbow last fall. His status for the beginning of the season was uncertain.
Oft-injured captain David Wright was already out indefinitely, sidelined by a shoulder impingement following neck surgery in June. Filling his spot at third base again will be veteran Jose Reyes.
"I think we're deeper than we've ever been," manager Terry Collins said early in spring training. "It always seems like at the end of spring, someone is always dinged up. Now we've got replacements BRAVES AT METS 1 p.m., Citi Field (SNY, ESPN)
On a team with October intentions, last year's hard luck remains a fresh memory.
Three members of the young and talented rotation were unable to make it through the 2016 season, including Matz. Every experienced regular besides outfielder Curtis Granderson spent time on the disabled list, in addition to Lagares and productive sub Wilmer Flores.
All those ailments left the Mets and their makeshift lineup in a bind, snarling the team's attempt to repeat as National League champions.
Riding ace Noah Syndergaard and a handful of unheralded rookies, New York still managed to reach the playoffs, where it lost 3-0 at home to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in the wildcard game.
Now, New York has its sights set on making a third straight postseason appearance for the first time in franchise history.
With four starting pitchers coming off surgery, the Mets have reason to believe they can wind up back in the World Series — if only they could stay out of Dr. David Altchek's office. And while the entire rotation remains under team control next year, this could be the New York finale for several other important pieces: Granderson, Reyes, first baseman Lucas Duda, second baseman Neil Walker, outfielder Jay Bruce and relievers Addison Reed and Fernando Salas all have expiring contracts this season.
Ready or not: Besides the fluid status of Matz, the biggest question marks in a fragile rotation are Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey. Wheeler, who has missed two full seasons following Tommy John surgery, finally shook off some rust late in spring training — after Matz's injury potentially opened a door for him. Harvey, the former Fitch High School star, struggled much of the spring, then was better in his past two outings. The former ace went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA last season prior to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.