SARASOTA — Well, it’s a good thing the Mets brought in some insurance for their pitching this spring. They are going to need it after lefty Jason Vargas was diagnosed with a non-displaced hamate bone in his right, non-throwing hand late Friday night. He will likely face surgery.
“You know, it’ll either be he pitches through it or he’ll have it surgically repaired,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Sunday morning. “If he pitches through it, it’s a matter of what effect it will have on his preparation.”
So obviously, the Mets are in wait-and-see (and hope for the best) mode.
It’s a freak injury for Vargas. He took a line drive off his glove hand in a minor-league game on Friday afternoon. The team said the X-Rays were negative for a broken bone on Saturday, but sent him for a CT scan.
The 35-year old was optimistic on Saturday, but now he has to see a hand specialist Sunday afternoon and decide how to proceed with the injury.
The hamate bone is more frequently associated with hitters being hit by a pitch, or as Wilmer Flores suffered in 2016, a collision at the plate. Flores broke his on Sept. 10 and did not play again that season because of pain gripping the bat, eventually having surgery in October to remove the bone.
Surgery is the usual course of action, since the hamate bone is critical in the gripping motion, but it is possible to play with a broken hamate bone.
With Vargas, however, the decision is a little more complex.
Because it is his glove hand, Vargas probably could still prepare and pitch, but a broken hamate bone would likely compromise his ability to grip with his glove. It would be hard to imagine putting him on the mound of a major-league game without the ability to fully protect himself with a glove. Also, in the National League, Vargas would have to hold a bat and at least attempt to hit at some point, too.
The irony, of course, is that the Mets signed Vargas as insurance for a rotation that has been racked by injuries over the last two years. After a career-high 18-win season in 2017, the Mets gave Vargas, who was briefly in the Mets’ farm system, a $16-million deal to try and give them a steady veteran in case their young power arms blew out again.
While no one could foresee that kind of freak accident, the Mets’ stockpiling of pitching has them probably as well prepared as any team in baseball for this kind of setback.
The front of their rotation is solid and ready.
After a small issue with his lower back, Jacob deGrom has looked dominant in two Grapefruit League starts this spring. Noah Syndergaard has shown no after-effects of the torn right lat muscle that kept him out for four months last season and is back trying to dominate every hitter he faces.
Matt Harvey looks significantly better than the pitcher that struggled through Thoracic Outlet syndrome, and then the rehab from the surgery to correct it, last season. Zack Wheeler, perhaps motivated by the front office’s signing of Vargas last month and plan to put him in the bullpen, has pitched well in all but his last outing this spring. After pitching just half a season last year following a two-year rehab from 2015 Tommy John surgery, he is starting to prove himself again.
While Steven Matz, who is coming off season-ending surgery to move his ulnar nerve, has struggled this spring, Seth Lugo has impressed scouts monitoring the Mets this spring. Robert Gsellman has been solid.
Obviously, however, every one of those other pitchers has dealt with injuries in the past and Lugo is pitching with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. That’s why the Mets went out and got some insurance for their starting rotation. And it’s a good thing they did.
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