Seth Lugo had been the New York Mets’ model of versatility even before the new regime instilled those values this offseason.
The veteran right-hander had been the Mets’ most valuable bullpen arms but has often been called into the starting rotation after injuries left a shallow depth chart scrambling.
Heading into the 2021 season, Lugo was expected to headline a new-look bullpen that added some key pieces in the forms of Trevor May and Aaron Loup, but then the all-too-familiar injury bug emerged.
“The offseason was pretty normal, working out, throwing, but it was the beginning of February and my elbow was just swollen,” Lugo said on Thursday. “I didn’t have much range, couldn’t extend it.
“That amount of swelling was concerning. After it didn’t go down, I called the training staff… What do we do from here?”
Unable to get the swelling down from ice or compression, Lugo got an MRI where it was revealed that the 31-year-old had a bone spur in his right elbow, which required surgery and guaranteed that he would not be available for Opening Day this season.
“It was a sigh of relief,” Lugo admitted, who originally was fearing the worst considering his track record of UCL problems. “I got them removed, and here we are… It caught me off guard. It was feeling fine. There wasn’t an instant… It came out of nowhere.”
He underwent surgery in mid-February and is now in the second week of a six-week throwing program to ramp his way back up to the rigors of a full MLB season.
So far, so good for the righty.
“It feels normal now, just easing into rehab stuff. It feels really good,” He said. “Right now we’re on track. It’s been going well. A little more than two weeks in. Working out, doing my shoulder program, working legs on the bike… Everything’s going well right now.”
Both he and the Mets were unable to put a specific timetable on when Lugo will be able to get on the mound in the regular season.
Lugo is down in Port St. Lucie with the Mets, working closely with the team while performing his six-week program. However, it’s been bittersweet to have a completely different schedule than most of his teammates.
“It’s a bummer to watch everyone throw and I don’t get to,” he said. “Watching spring training games, I’m sitting home and itching to be playing. I do my own pitching analysis and critiquing what I see. I think that’ll be similar to that once Opening Day gets here.”
What he is working back toward, though, is still unknown. The Mets have yet to tell Lugo if he will be a bullpen arm or if he will be in the mix for a lower-rotation spot.
Considering the Mets’ re-bolstered rotation with the return of Marcus Stroman and the acquisitions of Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, and Jordan Yamamoto, it’s logical to believe Lugo will be in the bullpen, where his numbers are significantly better.
He has a 2.53 in 129 appearances as a reliever with a 0.954 WHIP compared to a 4.35 ERA in 38 career starts with a 1.336 WHIP.
“I’m just preparing for any scenario,” Lugo said. “I take pride in being able to pitch in different scenarios, different situations… That’s kind of the way I’ve always been and I like it that way.”