The fragility of the Mets’ roster was ubiquitous at Citi Field on Tuesday. Before the Mets faced the Philadelphia Phillies, General Manager Sandy Alderson gave positive but vague updates regarding the health of pitchers Seth Lugo, Steven Matz and third baseman David Wright, none of whom would be playing any time soon.
When the game started, the absence of those players — and the performances of their replacements — was tangible in the Mets’ 6-2 loss in 10 innings, their fourth straight defeat.
Zack Wheeler, who missed the past two years after having Tommy John surgery and dealing with prolonged elbow discomfort and nerve irritation, offered a rare bright spot. He earned a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation largely because of the injuries to Lugo and Matz, but he had his most reassuring outing this season, allowing one run over five innings while striking out seven.
But an eighth-inning error by Jose Reyes — Wright’s replacement at third base — cost Wheeler the win.
With the Mets leading, 2-1, with two outs in the eighth and Cameron Rupp on first base, Reyes dropped a pop fly off the bat of Freddy Galvis that put runners at the corners. Andres Blanco followed with a pinch-hit, ground-rule double that brought home Rupp to tie it, 2-2. Rupp hit a sacrifice fly off Rafael Montero in the 10th inning to score Michael Saunders for the go-ahead run, and the Phillies piled on from there, adding three more.
Manager Terry Collins said Reyes, who had batted just .087 entering Tuesday, was “extremely frustrated” but had earned the right to work his way out of his slump.
“You have to be able to get through this, and you’ve got to be able to deal with it, mentally,” Collins said.
That is especially true now, since help is not imminent. Wright is set to begin another rehabilitation assignment as he again tries to navigate his way back to the Mets’ lineup.
Since May 2015, Wright has battled spinal stenosis. Wright’s 2016 season was cut short by a herniated disk in his neck, a problem that required him to have fusion surgery. Two months ago, in spring training, Wright had to shut down because of soreness in his right shoulder.
Wright, 34, has not appeared in a game since May 27 of last year. He has played only 75 regular-season games combined during the previous two seasons.
Alderson said Wright would begin baseball activity — fielding grounders, taking swings and perhaps engaging in throwing drills — as early as Wednesday.
“I’m realistically expecting to see him sometime this year, but I don’t have any real way of projecting a timetable,” Alderson said. “So I think we’re going to be patient about that, but I certainly haven’t given up hope of seeing him here in 2017, by any means.”
Wright, who is owed $20 million this season, in addition to $47 million more through 2020, has tried to rebound from each repeated ailment. But every encouraging start is derailed by another physical setback.
Just recently, Wright resumed light baseball activity, Alderson said, but was then stopped by the flu and discomfort in his back.
Wright is not the only Mets player who may return to the field Wednesday. Lugo and Matz are expected to begin throwing from 75 feet, although Alderson did not believe either pitcher would be ready to rejoin the team any time soon, making Wheeler’s solid outing all the more important.
This month, Lugo was found to have a slight tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that can lead to Tommy John surgery. Alderson said the Mets will have to see how Lugo responds to throwing before they can gauge a timetable for his return.
“I think this is going to take a while,” Alderson said.
Alderson said he had no further information on the nature of Matz’s left elbow injury, which Matz has described as a strained flexor tendon, only that he had been cleared to throw. Alderson was also unsure of how long it might take before Matz could come off the disabled list, but he said he did not think Matz would need a rehabilitation assignment that would equate to a full spring training.
By the end of the day, the number of question marks surrounding the team only increased. Not only was Reyes’s play discouraging, but the Mets’ bullpen was tagged with another loss. The Mets played in their fifth straight game that was tied in the eighth or ninth inning, and they have now lost four in a row.