Steven Matz has no damage to his elbow ligament, and doctors confirmed on Monday that his prized left arm is structurally sound, a person briefed on the situation told Newsday. For now, the Mets and their wary fans can exhale at what the source called “good news,” content that this latest scare appears to be only that.
Matz won five straight decisions before soreness in his elbow and forearms prompted a skipped start.
The Mets declined to offer any medical updates about Matz until Tuesday. But a source said on Monday that team officials are expected to be conservative with him, pushing back his next start to sometime after the three-game series against the Nationals that begins on Tuesday.
The series against their NL East rival will be their first major test of the season that also serves as a natural time to take stock of the season’s opening stanza. The takeaway: It’s clear that these 21-16 Mets have yet to hit their stride.
Things appeared to be different this time around, the roles reversed with the Mets as defending NL East champions and the Nationals picking up the pieces per the fallout of the Matt Williams Experience.
“Not right now,” Mets manager Terry Collins said on Sunday. “I saw the papers this morning, and we’re looking up. We’ve got to catch them.”
Daniel Murphy returns to Citi Field, after his desire to re-sign with the Mets was not reciprocated. He has since thrived with his new team, hitting a major league-leading .400 to pace the front-running Nationals. They lead by 1 1/2 games over the Mets, who already have shown a measure of resilience through some strife.
“We’re going to be excited to go out there and go up against one of the best teams in baseball,” leftfielder Michael Conforto said. “We believe we’re one of the best teams in baseball as well. It’s going to be a great matchup.”
Despite a winning record, it has hardly been smooth sailing for the defending NL champs, who begin their pivotal series coming off a 4-7 road trip.
The Mets’ vaunted, young rotation is the closest thing in pitching to a garage filled with Lamborghinis. But instead of enjoying the high-octane thrills that they produced last season, the Mets have experienced all the maintenance nightmares that come with all that horsepower.
Staff ace Matt Harvey has pitched like a weekend hacker with the shanks, unsure from pitch to pitch what exactly he’s going to get. Volatility has become the hallmark of his starts, his velocity fluctuating in each outing. He has shown the outward signs of a crisis of confidence.
“Right now, it’s not an easy task,” said Harvey, who likely will start against the Nationals this week.
Jacob deGrom looks like he’s still pushing the “E” on his fuel gauge. His fastball averaged 95 mph last season. This year it’s stuck at 92.5.
Said deGrom: “You take what you’ve got out there and you do what you can with it.”
Noah Syndergaard has been every bit the dominant physical force he was expected to be. But even he revealed some vulnerability. Collins recently said that the pitcher had his right elbow checked out.
And then there’s Matz. Instead of starting him against the Nationals, the Mets likely will go with Syndergaard; Bartolo Colon, who is coming off his worst outing of the season, and Harvey.
Meanwhile, the Mets’ feast-or-famine offense must contend with the imposing trio of Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg.
“The Nationals are playing well,” said Mets cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes. “They’re our rivals. The key is to just go out and let the work speak for itself.”
Shortstop likely on his way. Infielder Matt Reynolds is expected to be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas before the series opener against the Nationals, a source confirmed. Reynolds would give the Mets a full bench and a backup shortstop, which they have gone without since WIlmer Flores landed on the disabled list on Thursday.