By Zach Gewelb
Well, that was fast. All of the euphoria from the Mets’ red-hot start to the season has vanished, as the club has dropped from first place to fourth in the surprisingly competitive National League East.
The team’s struggles have been well documented, and despite all the offseason chatter of an improved training staff, the biggest area of concern remains the health of some of the club’s biggest stars.
Jacob deGrom was activated from the disabled list last week following an elbow injury. He lasted just one inning in his first start back against the Philadelphia Phillies. He tossed 45 pitches in the stressful inning before manager Mickey Callaway pulled him for precautionary reasons.
It was the right move to make to sacrifice one game rather than a potential long term injury to deGrom. But the fact that deGrom’s health is in question should worry Mets fans. Last year, deGrom stayed healthy for most of the season, but Noah Syndergaard went down in May and was out until late September. That injury devastated the Mets and any prolonged absence for deGrom would similarly cripple the team’s pitching staff for 2018.
Sure, the Mets have some starting pitching depth, but the team would much rather see deGrom toe the rubber every five days rather than a Seth Lugo or a Robert Gsellman — both of whom have pitched well out of the bullpen this year, but are not quite as good as deGrom. Callaway was right to remove deGrom after his marathon inning and the team needs to continue to be extremely cautious with their ace.
DeGrom is not the only Mets star to deal with injuries this season. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had been experiencing a plethora of injuries and was clearly not playing at 100 percent. Yet, until Wednesday — when the Mets placed him on the 10-day DL — he was still out there most nights, giving it his all.
The risk in keeping him in the lineup was eventually too much to continue playing him. The club should be applauded for placing him on the DL before his injuries turned into a prolonged absence.
There was only one reason why Cespedes wasn’t placed on the DL sooner: the Mets desperately needed his bat in the lineup.
Cespedes leads the club in home runs and RBI and his absence for any amount of time would decimate the Mets. New York is ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored — and that’s with the Cuban slugger in the lineup. Better to be safe than sorry and place Cespedes on the DL now to let him heal rather than push him too hard and lose him for an extended period of time, even if it costs the team a few wins in the short term.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe