Another early morning, another announcement on the ever-shifting roster of the plummeting New York Mets. This time, the news involves starter Steven Matz, who was pulled from his las start, and second baseman Neil Walker, who recently returned to the lineup after sitting out four games with back stiffness.
Matz has been circling the disabled list for a few days now. After it was announced he would not make last Friday’s start due to his shoulder "bugging" him, an examination revealed no structural damage, but the starter is headed to the 15-day DL regardless. The team has called his issue "shoulder tightness," while Jon Heyman adds that there is some "rotator cuff irritation" in there as well.
While tightness is to be expected, anything with the rotator cuff is enough to make you sit up in bed. Matz, a 25-year-old rookie, has received a steady diet of painkillers since the discovery of a bone spur in his throwing elbow back in June. In an effort to quell the spur’s influence and avoid surgery, he cut back on his trademark slider, though he did let a few of them slip through during his no-hit bid against the Padres in his last start. Despite this, Matz has only sort of succeeded in keeping a lid on the irritation, having experienced at different times throughout the season twinges of discomfort from his shoulder down to his elbow.
Rotator cuff issues exist on the scarier fringes of baseball injuries, stealing full seasons and ending careers, so the Mets obviously don’t want to put a talented young starting pitcher in a position that will worsen a nagging injury. Matz is no stranger to missing significant chunks of time, either, having undergone Tommy John surgery in the minors.
With that menace casting a shadow over Matz’s encouraging 2016 season (3.40 ERA, 4.16 SO/W in 22 starts), the impetus behind Neil Walker’s departure is far more joyful. The 30-year-old second baseman and his wife, Niki, are anticipating the arrival of their first child and Walker has been placed on paternity leave. He will be replaced by T.J. Rivera, who went 11-for-13 for the Mets during the last week he spent in orange and blue for the big club. Rivera, a 27-year-old infielder, has slashed a less than ideal .174/.224/.228 with Triple A Las Vegas this season.