Kodai Senga injury latest: Mets ace headed to IL with strained shoulder, will miss 2024 Opening Day

Kodai Senga Mets
Kodai Senga (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Mets are just one week into spring training and there’s already concern surrounding their ace, Kodai Senga. 

President of baseball operations David Stearns on Thursday said that Senga suffered a moderate right posterior capsule strain and has been shut down. He will start the 2024 season on the injured list but it is unknown just how long his timetable will be. 

“Out of experience, not being at 100% puts a hamper on my performance,” Senga said through his interpreter (h/t SNY). “If I was asked if I could throw 96, 97, 98, yeah I can… but the game isn’t about throwing fast, it’s about getting hitters out and I felt like, at this point, I’m not going to be able to perform at the highest level so giving it a little bit of time is the right move.

Manager Carlos Mendoza presented the unease on Wednesday when he revealed that the 31-year-old right-hander was dealing with “overall arm fatigue.” He underwent an MRI that disclosed the results.

It’s an early, massive red flag for a Mets rotation precariously built by Stearns. Senga is the undisputed No. 1 of the pitching staff after a brilliant rookie campaign after a decade in Japan, posting a 2.98 ERA and 202 strikeouts. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and in the top 10 of the Cy Young vote.

He was kept fresh by former manager Buck Showalter by being slowly ramped up to a more intensive workload after pitching more than 148 innings just twice while pitching once a week during his time in Japan. That meant pushing starts back for extra rest before assimilating to a five-day schedule. 

Kodai Senga Mets Marlins
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

But with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer out of the picture, the Mets were entering a season with Senga as their main man in a rotation that already has uncertainties abound. Injuries have derailed Luis Severino, Sean Manaea spent the majority of last season in the bullpen, Jose Quintana pitched less than half of a season last year, and Adrian Houser has firmly been entrenched as a No. 5 starter throughout his MLB career. 

There would have been initial and understandable expectations for Senga to increase his workload even further in 2024 given his role, but this early injury forces the Mets to pump the brakes on that notion immediately.  

Proceeding with an abundance of caution is vital to ensure the staff doesn’t fall apart and with it, comes an all-but-certain idea that the team will go to a six-man rotation to keep the stress off Senga and his rotation-mates. 

In his absence, the Mets will give longer looks to Jose Butto, Joey Lucchesi, and Tylor Megill while David Peterson finishes up his recovery from offseason hip surgery. Stearns made it clear that the team will not be looking to add any more pitchers from the free agency market. 

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