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Mets facing injury concerns at the wrong time

Mets facing injury concerns at the wrong time
The Mets have been obsessed with redemption in the NL East since 2007, but their plans for (finally) toppling the Phillies took a disturbing detour Wednesday, when the club announced Carlos Delgado and J.J. Putz are both injured, perhaps seriously.

For now, the Mets say the pair will be out of action until Sunday, but that might be just the tip of the iceberg. Delgado's chronic hip condition is apparently more debilitating than he's let on, and it's possible his season is in jeopardy. Putz isn't in quite the same danger, but the decline of his fastball in last two weeks was significant enough for the Mets to send him for tests following Wednesday's 8-7 loss to the Braves.

There, it was discovered that Putz has been pitching with a bone chip in his elbow. GM Omar Minaya doesn't believe surgery will be necessary, but Putz' unavailability during the first leg of a critical 10-game road trip to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston represents a clear setback.

The Mets just lost two of three at home to the Braves, and now face three of the major leagues' most dominant teams at home. Delgado has been out of the lineup since Monday, but instead of putting him on the disabled list, officially have been hoping all week for a breakthrough.

But the idea of Delgado rescuing the Mets on the West Coast seems unlikely, if not impossible. Minaya revealed that the first baseman is suffering from an impingement in his right hip, as well as a bone spur. In addition, Delgado has a small tear in the labrum area, the same condition that led to Alex' Rodriguez' surgery — and two-month stint on the disabled list.

The impingement, bone literally rubbing against bone, causes Delgado significant pain when he turns or flexes his hip. Even successful surgery can't guarantee Delgado won't someday end up with arthritis. But before the Mets end their slugger's season, they're giving therapy one more try this weekend. That's why Delgado accompanied the Mets on their cross-country flight Wednesday evening.

Putz's case is hazier, because, according to Minaya, the reliever has pitched with a similar injury in the past. It's unclear just how much the bone spur is actually bothering Putz, even though he acknowledged his once-untouchable fastball has been lacking its usual ferocity.

Whereas Putz used to be clocked in the mid to high 90s, his four-seamer is now in the 91-92 mph range. But he made no mention of a bad arm during an interview with WFAN on Wednesday morning. Instead, Putz revealed he was having trouble adapting to his new role as an eighth-inning setup man.

"You really don't have that heart-pounding sensation," said the former Mariners closer. "I think that's where those two or three miles an hour are. That's adrenaline."

Jerry Manuel offered another theory: Putz is still feeling the effects of a shortened spring training, having participated in the World Baseball Classic. "A (power-pitcher) like that, he needs a full spring," the manger said.


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But that conversation took place before Putz was sent to the Hospital for Special Surgery on Wednesday for a MRI. The right-hander was given a cortisone shot; if he responds well, Putz may indeed by able to pitch again by Sunday.

Until then, the Mets will have to find a reliable bridge to Francisco Rodriguez. The most likely candidate will be the hard-throwing Bobby Parnell, who might have the best fastball on the roster. But the Mets went into the season convinced they'd locked down the final six outs of every game. That's how much they trusted Putz and Rodriguez.

While K-Rod has been all but perfect, Putz' recent performances were like a blur of red flags. With a 4.05 ERA in his first 19 appearance, Putz' strikeouts-per-nine-inning ratio was off dramatically from his prime in Seattle in 2007 — from 10.3 to about four.

Concurrently, National League hitters were having an easier time with Putz than their AL counterparts. Two years ago he was allowing 4.6 hits per nine innings, this year it's up to seven.

If nothing else, the injuries will serve as the ultimate reality check for the Mets, who embark on what Carlos Beltran says will be "a very difficult road trip."

"No doubt this is going to be a big test for us," David Wright said in agreement.

Three challenging series in succession will indeed tell the Mets where they rank among the NL's powerhouses. So far, they've played just one clearly superior club — the Cardinals — and ended up losing all three games.

The good news for the Mets, however, is that East seems more homogenous than ever. No one has able to dominate — certainly not the world champion Phillies, who rank 15th in the league with a 5.43 ERA.

The Mets? They're second at 3.95, which is one reason they left New York on Wednesday in first place. That's exactly where they projected themselves when spring training ended. But, without Delgado and Putz, walking into the mouth a monster road trip, the Mets are about to find the answer to a burning question: just how good are they?

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 15, 2009

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