Posted on September 20, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
In the wake of losing Jacob deGrom for the rest of the season, the New York Mets may finally have some good news as far as their starting rotation is concerned. Lefty Steven Matz is getting close to being ready to return from a shoulder impingement and may be in line to pitch on Friday when the Mets play the Philadelphia Phillies.
Matz threw on flat ground on Tuesday at the team’s spring training complex in Florida. He is scheduled to return to New York and throw a bullpen session on Wednesday in front of pitching coach Dan Warthen, who will evaluate how Matz throws during the session. If all goes well on Wednesday, Matz could rejoin the rotation on Friday.
“I’m feeling good and I’m ready to go,” Matz told reporters after he threw on Tuesday. “The team’s playing great up there right now. I’m going to just go up there and try to help them as best I could.”
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Matz hasn’t pitched since August 14 when took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the San Diego Padres. He was unable to make his next start due to tightness in his shoulder and has been on the shelf ever since. Matz is also pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, but doctors have told him he won’t do any damage by continuing to pitch with it; he merely has to manage the pain.
The Mets will no doubt be excited to get Matz back on the mound. However, manager Terry Collins is doing his best to lower expectations for the lefty’s return and potential impact. “He’s not ready to go real far,” Collins said earlier this week. “We need to make sure that we’re not just taking a shot in the dark here and starting a guy that we only can get two innings out of. We’ll see where he’s at when it comes with his side on Wednesday and see what develops from that.”
The Mets currently own the top wild card spot in the National League, with a one-game lead over both the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. Noah Syndergaard is in line to start the one game wild card playoff if the Mets reach that point. If they win that wild card game, their hopes in the NLDS could receive a big boost if Matz is able to pitch in that series.
However, Collins remains skeptical that Matz can make a significant impact down the stretch and doesn’t feel comfortable penciling him into the team’s postseason plans just yet. “He probably would have to limit his first start to maybe 40-50 pitches,” Collins explains. “His second start would probably be pushing it to 65-70, which means if he pitched in postseason, if we got to postseason, he could give us 85, so yeah it’s possible he could be there. But a long shot.”
New York’s rotation has been hit hard by injuries this season, but they have managed to climb to the top of the wild card standings with help from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, who have been more than admirable fill-ins after injuries to deGrom, Matz, and Matt Harvey. The Mets also got a solid outing from Gabriel Ynoa, who could start Friday if Matz is unable to go.
After deGrom was ruled out for the season one day after his return to the rotation was announced, the Mets won’t get too far ahead of themselves with regard to Matz. But the possibility of him returning is an exciting development for the reigning National League champions. If Matz is indeed healthy enough to pitch on Friday, even in a limited role he has the potential to make a significant impact down the stretch, and possibly help the Mets in the postseason as well.