By: Paul DiSclafani
After joking on Tuesday about the back injury suffered by rookie pitcher Steven Matz, the Mets are now concerned the injury will prevent him from making the post season roster.
Matz (4-0) woke up with a sore back and after initially having his Wednesday start against the Phillies pushed back to Thursday, he was scratched entirely with the hopes of back-ending one of the starters this weekend against the Washington Nationals. That is now off the table, putting his availability for the NL Division Series against the Dodgers in jeopardy.
“I think the level of concern has gone up,” said an obviously concerned Sandy Alderson, “It (the back) hasn’t seemed to get better. I probably downplayed it a little too much at the outset based on hope rather than information. But the fact that is hasn’t responded particularly well is concern, but doesn’t mean that it won’t respond quickly over the next few days.”
Manager Terry Collins feels that unless they can see Matz throw without discomfort, his chances of being one of the 25 players going into the NLDS are slim. “Right now, I don’t see how he is going to pitch this weekend,” said Collins. “Then we’ve got to get him to the instructional league and get him some work.”
Matz has not pitched since September 24th and if he is on the Mets post season roster, would be slotted to start in Game 4, which is not until October 13th. The Mets were anticipating him getting in a full game in the Phillies series, but hoping for a few innings against Washington this weekend.
“Things can change”, Collins said regarding the possibility of Matz pitching this weekend. “He can go and they may do something and he may come in tomorrow and say, ‘I’m ready to go,’ and on Sunday we can get him a few innings. But he’s got to pitch, go out there and throw his 100 pitches. Then we’ve got to get him to the instructional league and get him some work.”
Alderson pointed out that the Mets don’t have to make a final decision on Matz’ eligibility for the post season until next Friday, the day the NLDS begins and the final 25-man roster is due. “A lot can happen in terms of his physical health as well as actual innings pitched,” said the Mets GM. “We would want him to throw somewhere between now and the playoffs, and if he’s able to do that then we’ll make a judgment at that time based on what we see. Whether or not he pitches this weekend won’t necessarily determine whether he is on the roster or not on the roster or in what capacity, starter or reliever.”
With the Mets planning on using Jonathan Niese out of the bullpen in the NLDS, Matz not being available in the NLDS means they do not have a left-handed starter and may have to rely on veteran Bartolo Colon to start Game 4.
Mets and Nationals were rained out tonight and will play a day-night doubleheader at Citi field tomorrow before ending the regular season on Sunday.