Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Mets infielder Jed Lowrie still isn’t close to making his 2019 debut, manager Mickey Callaway told Tim Healey of Newsday and other reporters Wednesday. Lower body injuries have kept Lowrie from playing this season after he joined the Mets on a two-year, $20MM contract over the winter. With the season now at the halfway point, Callaway doesn’t even seem willing to commit to Lowrie taking the field at all in 2019. Asked if he expects to see Lowrie this year, Callaway said: “That’s hard to say. There’s so much of the season left. We’ll just have to play that by ear.”
Let’s check in on a few injury updates from around the league…
- Jed Lowrie does not appear anywhere near a return for the Mets, as his left side hip and hamstring are both causing him some pain, tweets Deesha Thosar of the NY Daily News. The Mets maintain that Lowrie will play this season, but there’s no timetable for him to begin a rehab assignment. Given that Lowrie’s initial injury was a left knee capsule strain, it would seem Lowrie’s rehab has become a complex and dynamic healing process.
- Trey Mancini returns to the lineup after nursing a sore elbow after getting plunked by Chris Bassitt of the A’s, per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza. Mancini, 27, is the Orioles likely all-star and best trade chip as of right now (.304/.361/.558), but he may also be their best chance to stop their current 9-game skid.
- Good news for the Arizona Diamondbacks as Ketel Marte’s injury appears minor. He is day-to-day for now with a left groin cramp, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Marte’s health is crucial for the Diamondbacks if they are to stay in the hunt for the Wild Card. They are 2.5 games back entering play today, largely driven by Marte’s .309/.359/.586 season, his 20 home runs already 6 more than his previous career high.
TODAY: Speaking to reporters (including Newsday’s Tim Healey) on Saturday, Van Wagenen didn’t say whether Lowrie was still suffering from only his hamstring problem, or if he was dealing with a re-aggravation of his original knee issue, or another injury altogether. “I’m not going to get into any more details beyond the fact that his left side needs to be working in concert with each other,” the Mets GM said. “The knee to the hamstring, we want to make sure that the kinetic chain is working together and that his posture and his functionality is working.”
THURSDAY: Infielder Jed Lowrie was one of the Mets’ most significant acquisitions of the winter, when they signed the former Athletic to a two-year, $20MM contract. Lowrie still hasn’t debuted with his new club since suffering a knee strain in February, though, and his return to the majors isn’t on the horizon.
Although Lowrie’s knee has healed, he incurred a hamstring strain last month that continues to prevent him from taking the field. Updating Lowrie’s status Thursday, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 35-year-old is “not close” to embarking on a rehab assignment, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
Durability issues have been all too common for Lowrie since he began his career with the Red Sox in 2008, though he enjoyed healthy seasons in Oakland from 2017-18. During that two-year period, the switch-hitting Lowrie appeared in 310 of a possible 324 regular-season games, amassed 1,325 plate appearances and slashed .272/.356/.448 (121 wRC+) with 37 home runs. Going by fWAR (8.5), Lowrie was the league’s third-most valuable second baseman in his final two seasons with the A’s.
Lowrie parlayed his late-career renaissance into his high-paying deal with the Mets, who were expecting more of the same. Whether it was a wise allocation of resources on rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s part is debatable. After all, the Lowrie signing came on the heels of the acquisitions of two other infielders – Robinson Cano and J.D. Davis – and the Mets also had Jeff McNeil and Todd Frazier on hand to compete for second and third base spots. As it turns out, the currently injured Cano has been among the Mets’ biggest disappointments this season, while Davis, McNeil and Frazier (especially McNeil) rank as three of their most productive contributors.
The Mets’ major commitment to Cano and the success Davis, McNeil and Frazier have enjoyed further call into question how Lowrie will fit on their roster if he does return. He’s not going to usurp first base from NL Rookie of the Year favorite Pete Alonso, nor does Lowrie seem likely to take over shortstop (where he hasn’t played extensively since 2014) for Amed Rosario. Meanwhile, the Mets have two cornerstone corner outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo (also injured), and first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith has been tremendous in a part-time role.
The latest from Flushing Meadows . . .
- Brandon Nimmo’s neck injury – initially described by the club as “stiff” and “inflamed” – is actually far graver, relays MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. The 26-year-old is suffering from a bulging cervical disc that’s “pushing” on a nerve in his neck, and he’s also dealing with the aftermath of whiplash, presumably suffered during a collision with the center-field wall in an April 14 game vs. Atlanta. Nimmo is “relieved” to have been issued a firm diagnosis, though there’s currently no timetable for his return. It’s a been rough ’19 go for the Wyoming-born outfielder, who’s slumped to a .200/.344/.323 line over 161 plate appearances thus far. The former first-rounder has maintained his sky-high walk rates from the two seasons prior, though – his 16.1% mark currently ranks tenth among all MLB regulars – so the slow start could simply be a function of poor balls-in-play luck, or the vagaries of small-sample baseball at large.
- DiComo also provides an update on the concussed Michael Conforto, he of the staunch .271/.406/.521 line thus far, who appears set to return before Sunday’s game against Detroit. It’s a huge sigh of relief for an organization in desperate need of some left-handed thump, and one that seemed unlikely to transpire so soon. Perhaps the league’s most underrated hitter, Conforto has followed up a sizzling second half last season with a top-20 wRC+ in the first two months thus far. He’s upped his walk rate to a career-best 16.7% (good for 6th in MLB) and slashed his K rate over 3%, to a quite respectable (and below league-average) 21.7%. The 26-year-old has had periodic issue with staying healthy, but a full season on the field at this pace should place the former first-rounder right in line with the league’s elite.
- Infielder Jed Lowrie is still “a ways away,” per manager Mickey Callaway (h/t to the New York Post’s Mike Puma). The 35-year-old, who signed a two-year, $20MM pact with New York in the offseason, has long been beset by injuries of various type throughout his 12-year big-league career. Ailments cut short each of his 2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’15, and ’16 seasons, and there appears to be no concrete timetable for his return in ’19. Lowrie’s on the heels of back-to-back excellent seasons with Oakland, though the aging curve is especially cruel for second basemen, and doubly so when they’ve accumulated a host of lower-body maladies over the the course of a career.
Mets infielder Jed Lowrie has suffered a setback that will delay his activation, Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports on Twitter. A “slight hamstring strain” will force Lowrie back to extended spring training for several more weeks of rehab work.
Lowrie has already spent the first six weeks of the season on the injured list with a sprained left knee. The 35-year-old played in eight games on a rehab assignment, hitting just .161/.235/.258 with ten strikeouts in 34 plate appearances.
To this point, the Mets have not received any return on their two-year, $20MM investment in Lowrie, who signed on in New York after an impressive pair of seasons with the Athletics. There’s still plenty of time for him to perform as expected, though it’s suboptimal for his tenure to open in this manner.
Furthermore, the new injury to Lowrie will quite likely prolong what has long been viewed as an impending roster crunch of sorts in Queens. A healthy Lowrie could very well have pushed wither Adeiny Hechavarria or Keon Broxton — neither of whom can be optioned to the minors without first hitting waivers — off the active roster. Instead, both players will now likely continue to hold down bench jobs, though between the lack of roster flexibility they offer and the struggles of veteran Todd Frazier, it’s not out of the question that changes are still looming on the horizon.
The latest out of Citi Field….
- Jed Lowrie’s official Mets debut will wait a few more days, as the infielder will play in more minor league rehab games through the weekend rather than be activated off the injured list on Friday. (Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to report the news.) Lowrie has yet to play this season due to a capsule strain in his left knee, though his extended rehab stint isn’t due to any sort of health setback, but rather simply the fact that the Mets want to give the veteran infielder more time to get ready. Lowrie missed almost all of Spring Training due to the injury, and he has only two hits in 25 plate appearances during the six rehab games he has already played. The 35-year-old Lowrie signed a two-year, $20MM contract with New York as a free agent over the offseason.
- With Lowrie’s return delayed, the Mets will get a bit of extra time to figure out a bit of a roster crunch situation. As MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes, demoting either J.D. Davis or Dominic Smith would cost the Mets a productive player, though Davis could at least benefit from playing every day as a left fielder at Triple-A. If not Davis or Smith, the team could also designate veteran Adeiny Hechavarria for assignment, though that would leave the shortstop position thin behind Amed Rosario. Lowrie has a lot of shortstop experience, of course, though he has played only two games at the position since the start of the 2016 season. DiComo doesn’t think that Keon Broxton (who is out of options) is a candidate for DFA limbo when Lowrie joins the 25-man roster.
- Todd Frazier also won’t be moved to make room for Lowrie, as a source tells Newsday’s Tim Healey. With just a .143/.160/.265 slash line through 50 plate appearances, Frazier has yet to get on track following his own Spring Training injury, an oblique strain that kept him out of action until April 22. The injury continued a frustrating stretch for Frazier since joining the Mets, as he was hoping to rebound from a subpar 2018 season. New York’s crowded infield will likely lead to less playing time for Frazier, who is cognizant of the situation but still confident that he can regain some of his old form. “I don’t know if this will be my last year with the Mets. I know I’m a free agent after this year, so I want to put my best foot forward and make an impact on this team again,” Frazier said. The 33-year-old is still owed roughly $7.2MM of his $9MM salary for the 2019 season, making him an expensive cut if the Mets decided to part ways with him entirely.
- In other Mets news from earlier today, Steven Matz was placed on the 10-day injured list due to radial nerve discomfort.
Some injury updates from around the game . . .
- Braves righty Mike Foltynewicz, shelf-ridden to began the year, threw 63 pitches in a minor-league game Friday, tweets the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien, who notes that the righty could be activated as soon as April 9. A healthy return for the sudden ace would break up the Braves’ rockpile of young rotation arms, a group that currently includes rookies Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, and second-year man Max Fried, who was curiously deployed in Opening-Day relief.
- More good news on the Atlanta rotation front comes from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, who tweets that righty Kevin Gausman threw 90 pitches in a minor-league game today and reported no ill effects. Gausman’s slated to take the ball April 5 against Miami as he looks to reprise his inning-eating ways for the fourth consecutive year. The Braves, then, won’t have long to settle on an early-season rotation mix, and top prospect Mike Soroka’s eventual presence will only further complicate matters.
- O’Brien also tweets that the Braves could have late-inning presence A.J. Minter back as soon as Thursday. Minter, 25, threw just 58 carer minor-league innings before a scintillating 2017 debut. He doubled down last season, establishing himself as one of the National League’s top relievers after a 1.4 fWAR performance in just 61 1/3 IP. He’ll be leaned on heavily at the back end of a thin Atlanta ’pen in the early stages of 2019.
- Todd Frazier is almost ready to begin a rehab assignment as he recovers from a strained oblique, per Newsday’s Tim Healey (via Twitter). The Mets third baseman is set to return to game action in the minor leagues within the next couple of days, putting him on track to make his 2019 debut before the end of April. Infielder Jed Lowrie is less far along. As he rehabs from a sprained left knee, Lowrie is traveling with the team, and though the Mets haven’t put a timetable on his return, he was seen this morning taking grounders at third, per Deesha Thosar of the NY Daily News (via Twitter). In the meantime, Jeff McNeil got the start at third base on Opening Day alongside Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano and Pete Alonso in the infield. Today’s lineup will feature McNeil getting the start in left while J.D. Davis gets a turn at third. Let’s check in on some other health-related issues from around the league…
- The centerpiece of the Justin Verlander trade has been shut down for 4-6 weeks with shoulder tendonitis, per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. Franklin Perez is the Tigers #4 ranked prospect according to Baseball America, #6 by Baseball Prospectus, and #5 by Fangraphs, while MLB.com has the hard-throwing righty the highest at #3. Separate instances of a lat strain and shoulder soreness limited his 2018 to only 7 appearances between two levels, topping out with a 7.94 ERA across four starts for High-A Lakeland – where he hoped to return to start 2019. The 21-year-old Venezuelan boasts a power heater that consistently reached 98 mph when he could stay on the field this spring, but health is the focus for Perez for the time being. Perez is one of three right-handers who make up the core of Detroit’s farm, along with Matt Manning and 2018’s #1 overall draft pick Casey Mize.
- There are no lingering issues with the groin injury that put Alex Cobb on the shelf to start the year. After throwing five innings in a minor league game yesterday, he is in line to start the Orioles’ home opener next Thursday, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Nate Karns will make his Orioles debut on the bump today, and while there’s no strict pitch count, don’t expect Karns to make it much further than the second or third inning, per The Athletic’s Dan Connolly (via Twitter). Karns will play the role of Opener today, with Jimmy Yacabonis expected to see significant work as well.
Though there are just over two weeks between now and Opening Day, Mets ace Jacob deGrom said Tuesday that he’s still “optimistic” about coming to terms on a long-term deal with the organization (link via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). Whatever talks have transpired, both the Mets and deGrom’s camp have done a good job of keeping things under wraps, as there’s been little reported on the matter since camp opened despite deGrom’s standing as one of the game’s elite talents. The right-hander stated again today that he “definitely” wants to be a part of the Mets’ future. It’s been one month since deGrom was reported to have placed an Opening Day deadline on extension talks with the Mets. He’s slated to earn $17MM in 2019 — his second-to-last season of arbitration eligibility — and is currently on track to become a free agent after the 2020 season.
More from the NL East …
- On the health side, the Mets have seen encouraging progress from a few players. Jed Lowrie has resumed baseball activities and could be on track to return from his knee sprain early in the season. There’s even an “outside shot” that he’s on the active roster on Opening Day, DiComo says. And backstop Travis d’Arnaud is expected to head north with the big league club after missing almost all of 2018, DiComo adds. d’Arnaud, who avoided arbitration at a $3.515MM salary, has continued to check boxes this spring as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
- Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor is turning heads inside and outside the organization, Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic writes (subscription link). While Victor Robles will be given a shot to make good on his promise, the Nats are also considering scenarios where he slides to right field to enable Taylor to roam in center. Utilizing such an alignment when there’s a lefty on the hill would also facilitate rest for Adam Eaton, who has been limited by leg ailments ever since arriving in Washington. Soon to turn 28, Taylor has had chances to seize regular time in the past but hasn’t managed to reach base consistently enough to fully realize his potential. He spent the winter working on swing mechanics and preparing to “stay strong on the mental side” with a more “positive” mindset. Taylor will enter the season fourth on the depth chart, but could still have ample opportunity with the Nats in the season to come and beyond.
- The Marlins pursued veteran outfielder Adam Jones before he signed with the Diamondbacks, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Those were the only two teams with interest in Jones, who suggested he was not inclined to consider minor-league offers. The Marlins ended up securing the services of some other veteran players on favorable terms, including a minors pact with outfielder Curtis Granderson; the club’s level of financial interest in Jones is not known. Jones says he “want[s] to play a few more years for sure, at least.”
Jed Lowrie returned to Mets camp on Friday but won’t see any action due to a sore left leg, per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. The Mets plan on being cautious with Lowrie, whose results from an MRI came back with an official diagnosis of a “capsule strain” in his left knee, per Mike Puma of the NY Post (via Twitter).
Deesha Thosar of the NY Daily News adds (via Twitter) that there is no timetable for Lowrie’s return, and there’s at least a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. While the Mets prefer Lowrie in the infield at the start of the season, the bigger concern is that the injury does not linger long into the year. Lowrie, 35 in April, comes to New York on the heels of a career year in Oakland where he hit .267/.353/.448, good for a 120 OPS+. After struggling to say on the field early in his career, Lowrie appeared in over 150 games in each of the last two seasons.
The Mets pray the injury is not a harbinger of things to come, but it’s certainly a reminder that this Mets squad is going to have to deal with durability concerns throughout the grinding 162-game schedule, per Puma. Todd Frazier missed time with hamstring and rib cage injuries last season, and health remains the biggest question mark around backstop Wilson Ramos. Robinson Cano has had a fairly remarkable run of health, but even he will be monitored closely as he enters his age-36 season. The good news for the Mets is they have more depth than in year’s past, with Jeff McNeil able to move around the diamond and Adeiny Hechavarria, J.D. Davis, Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini in the infield mix as well.
Agents Jeff Berry and Matt Ricatto of CAA Baseball are in Port St. Lucie and will meet with the Mets regarding Jacob deGrom’s contract status, Newsday’s Tim Healey reports. As Healey notes, it’s routine for agents to pay quick visits to MLB camps to check in with their clients and with organizational decision-makers, though the very public nature of deGrom’s extension candidacy makes this particular visit more intriguing. Certainly, a long-term deal for a pitcher of deGrom’s caliber isn’t something that’d be hammered out in a matter of hours, but this week’s visit could potentially help to lay some groundwork for negotiations that would carry on throughout Spring Training. Last week, deGrom indicated that talks had not yet gotten off the ground, and a few days prior to that, it was reported that his camp has placed an Opening Day deadline on getting a deal finished.
Here’s more out of Queens…
- The Mets received good news following Jed Lowrie’s recent MRI, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. Lowrie underwent the test after experiencing some discomfort in the back of his knee earlier this week, but the MRI did not reveal any significant damage. The veteran will be brought along slowly early in camp, Puma notes, although at this point it seems there’s no longer much cause for concern. The 34-year-old (35 in April) inked a two-year, $20MM pact with the Mets this offseason on the heels of a terrific 2018 campaign in which he batted .267/.353/.448 with 23 home runs and 37 doubles in 680 plate appearances with the A’s.
- The Mets aren’t ruling out the possibility of carrying three catchers to open the season, manager Mickey Callaway tells Kevin Armstrong of the New York Times. Offseason signee Wilson Ramos, of course, is a lock to make the Opening Day roster as the team’s new primary option behind the dish, and Travis d’Arnaud seems quite likely to be in the mix as well, so long as his rehab from 2018 Tommy John surgery has adequately progressed. The other two options are 24-year-old Tomas Nido and veteran Devin Mesoraco, who returned to the Mets on a minor league deal this winter. As Callaway explains, Mesoraco’s relationship with deGrom was a huge factor in the organization’s decision to re-sign him; Mesoraco caught 21 of 25 deGrom starts last year after being acquired from the Reds. Callaway spoke with high praise of Mesoraco’s preparation and leadership, which had a positive influence on other catchers and throughout the pitching staff. Given d’Arnaud’s ability to play some first base and left field, carrying a pair of backup catcher options wouldn’t be as limiting as it would for other clubs. Nido, meanwhile, has a minor league option remaining, so he seems likely to be headed for Triple-A to open the year.