The Washington Post

Díaz’s injury is nightmare scenario for Mets at WBC

Closer expected to miss season after hurting knee during celebratio­n

- BY CHELSEA JANES port st. lucie, fla. —

On Thursday, New York Mets General Manager Billy Eppler held the news conference no general manager wanted to hold this month. He was the one whose superstar suffered a likely season-ending injury in the World Baseball Classic, the nightmare scenario, the one all 30 teams risked when they allowed their players to represent their countries in the quadrennia­l event.

Eppler announced that his closer, Edwin Díaz, suffered a full tear of his right patella tendon when his knee buckled during Puerto Rico’s celebratio­n on the field in Miami on Wednesday night. A team doctor was at the stadium. He had known it right away. By the time Eppler addressed reporters, Díaz was already headed to surgery and into the uncertaint­y of what Eppler said is normally an eight-month

recovery. Even if the Mets make the World Series, they have about seven months to go.

Eppler was careful not to rule a 2023 return out entirely. Some athletes return in six months, he said. He said Díaz told him not to worry, that he would be okay. But months after committing $102 million to one of the more prolific late-inning strikeout machines in recent baseball history, the Mets must now consider a season without him because of an injury suffered in a tournament that is not a required part of major league duties. And Eppler was not shy about suggesting that the Mets would have preferred if their stars did not play in that tournament at all.

“In general, we are not given too many opportunit­ies to stand in the way when a player goes. There are certain criteria that has to be met for a player to not go,” Eppler said. “When we’re given that runway, we’ve taken it. We took it with [outfielder Starling] Marte. We filed the objection on Marte because we could. But I don’t want to get into the specifics here.”

Díaz was not the only Mets player in the WBC. His Puerto Rico teammate, Francisco Lindor, is still active. Pete Alonso and Jeff Mcneil are still playing for the United States. And the Mets are not the only team with their stars involved: The Padres, for example, have watched Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado and Juan Soto escape the tournament unscathed.

“This isn’t necessaril­y the WBC’S fault on this,” said Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who suffered a pulled hamstring while playing for the United States in 2017 and missed Opening Day because of it.

“The crazy and freak part of this is it happened during the celebratio­n. It wasn’t even while he was throwing 100 miles per hour,” Nimmo said. “I was watching it live. It was a good game. It meant a lot. I had Francisco and Díaz on Puerto Rico and obviously huge stars playing in this game. I was watching for the same reason everybody else was watching: Do-or-die game, in March? It’s fun. But things can happen.”

And therein lies the never-ending complicati­on of the World Baseball Classic, which filled a normally empty stadium with 36,000 on Wednesday and means so much to those who participat­e in it. Injuries can happen. Seasons can change because of it. The risk of losing a player for the regular season must be weighed against the reward that player gets from playing for his country, for playing for a title other than the one his employers pay him to pursue.

“Those things, they can happen to anybody at any given time. And you can always try and place blame on the WBC, but that’s just a freak accident that could happen to anyone at any given time,” Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts told reporters in Phoenix on Wednesday night. “. . . This is so much fun. It’s so much fun. And this is way better than getting four at-bats in the back fields. I encourage those who are watching, come join, come play for Team USA, because this is a lot of fun.”

Injuries, of course, can happen on the back fields, too. They can happen in spring training games, and in fact, they often do.

“It’s just tough to have it at this point of the year,” Mets starter Justin Verlander said. “The optimism is so high and everybody is ready to go, when that happens, it’s tough.”

Verlander said he had no opinion either way on whether players should play in the WBC or whether anyone’s minds should change about the event because of what happened to Díaz. His teammate, Max Scherzer, said this week that he worried about “rolling the dice” with his arm by pitching in playoff-intensity games this early in the year. But Díaz did not hurt himself pitching in a high-intensity game. He hurt himself celebratin­g a win so meaningful his teammates ran out of the dugout to jump in a circle around him March 15, several months before the kind of playoff games that normally inspire that reaction.

“This tournament has to continue and be part of our life. We have to take the risk,” Venezuela Manager Omar López told reporters Thursday. “. . . They don’t know how proud we feel when we see in the crowd so many Venezuelan­s enjoying and smiling. That would be the most important thing and what is boosting us to move forward. The same happens with the other teams. Yesterday, I saw Team USA playing hard, things that I haven’t seen very often before in Team USA. That’s why the Classic is so well organized. That’s why it should continue, and it’s part of the risk.”

 ?? Eric ESPADA/GETTY IMAGES ?? Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz was carried off the field Wednesday night after rupturing the patella tendon in his knee after the victory.
Eric ESPADA/GETTY IMAGES Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz was carried off the field Wednesday night after rupturing the patella tendon in his knee after the victory.

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