3:25pm: The Mets have issued a statement on Lugo’s injury, noting that he will be shut down for the next two weeks before beginning a throwing program. “Surgical repair of the UCL is still a possibility, depending on the results of the PRP, rest and throwing program,” the Mets add at the conclusion of the release.
11:39am: Mets righty Seth Lugo has been diagnosed with a “slight” tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter). He is, however, not expected to require surgery. Instead, the current plan calls for a platelet-rich plasma injection followed by rest.
While a more significant tear to the UCL would obviously represent much worse news, it’s still a major loss for the Mets. Lugo had figured to represent a top-quality swingman after his excellent work in 2016. Instead, he’ll join Steven Matz on the shelf for at least a significant chunk of the season’s first half.
Lugo, 27, had gone largely without note until breaking through to the majors last year. He ended up providing 64 innings of 2.67 ERA pitching in 17 appearances — eight of them starts — while allowing just 49 base hits to go with 6.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Despite allowing hard contact at a 38.4% clip, Lugo managed to hold opposing hitters to a .230 batting average on balls in play.
Whether Lugo’s 2016 success is sustainable remains to be seen, but the Mets had hoped to find out by having him on hand to help out. Particularly with Matz also battling injury issues, the club’s depth has taken a hit early on.
Obviously, any UCL injury immediately raises the specter of a Tommy John procedure, but that’s not always the case. For one thing, many pitchers rest and then pitch through sprains (which are themselves slight tears). For another, there are a variety of alternative treatments and procedures currently rising in popularity. Given the preliminary diagnosis that has been reported thus far, it’s impossible to know how long Lugo might be sidelined.
It’s worth noting, too, that it’s not clear whether Lugo has actually suffered a recent injury. As James Wagner of the New York Times notes (Twitter links), it hasn’t yet been determined (if it’s possible to at all) whether Lugo has simply experienced inflammation from a preexisting issue. While the distinction may not matter much for his rehab course, it could conceivably change the way the medical staff assesses his susceptibility to further injury moving forward.