Monday, August 28, 2023

Mets Memo: Max Returns To Citi, & Diaz, Marte Injury Updates

Tylor Megill pitching to Robbie Grossman in the second inning. The summary of the Mets' game against Texas is at the end of this column. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Monday night, the Mets began a three-game series at Citi Field against the Texas Rangers, which meant that future Hall of Fame pitcher Max Scherzer would be back in the building. There also were updates on the returns of Mets closer Edwin Diaz and outfielder Starling Marte.

MAX SCHERZER: The Mets traded Scherzer, one of their ace pitchers, to Texas on July 29 for top prospect infielder Luisangel Acuna as part of the teardown at the trade deadline. The Mets also traded their other ace, Justin Verlander, and closer David Robertson, in a frenzy of moves that week.

Scherzer won 20 regular season wins in his nearly two seasons as a Met, as he was 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA (earned run average), after he went 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA in 2022. After a lot of fanfare when he joined the Mets and the immediate impact he had for a 101-win team last season, what will probably be remembered most, however, is how he lost the opening of the playoffs, Game 1 of the Wild Card round against San Diego, in which he allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. That was evident as fans booed Scherzer while a tribute video played before the game.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said, in his pregame press conference on Monday afternoon, of having a pitcher of Scherzer’s caliber with the Mets, “I always like when you get a type of player with that type of career under their belt so far, you’re kind of curious to why they’ve been able to have that consistent success, and Max, it was, ‘okay, I’ve got it now, I’ve got it, he’s driven.’ I’ve said it a million times, he’s a baseball player who happens to be a pitcher. He was always on me about pinch-running, check out his batting, his ability to bunt, loved winning, on the days he didn’t pitch, too. 

“Very blunt and honest, which made it refreshing to not have to, you know, tiptoe around a subject matter. You could get right to the core of it. He felt comfortable, you know, he’d come in, check out the board about pitching when or where, but he was always talking about his teammates, ‘this would be good for me, would be bad for him, I’ll…’ 

“Max was a great teammate and a winning player, we were lucky to have him.”

Showalter said of saying goodbye to Scherzer, “We took care of it, still talk a little bit, not much, but sometimes through text. Everybody loved Max’s takes on things. You’d see something would happen in the world or the country or in the sports world, you couldn’t wait to get his take on it because you knew he wasn’t going to sit on the fence about anything.

On meeting with Max when he was weighing whether to waive his no-trade clause, Showalter said, “The conversation with him in my office with the door closed when he was trying to make his decision was tough because I’m always going to do what’s best for the organization, and that was a tough conversation, but I appreciate and I was honored that he came to me to get my thoughts on it and try to look at it logically, without the emotion is hard. You know, the goodbyes, they’re hard.”

EDWIN DIAZ: Mets closer Edwin Diaz has been out all season with a FILL IN, but recently he has started throwing off the mound, with conversation swirling of a return in September. 

Diaz suffered the injury in March during the World Baseball Classic, and it was diagnosed as a a full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee, with a likely recovery time of eight months. That injury cast a cloud over the season that the Mets could not overcome, after he was the best closer in baseball in 2022, with 32 saves, 118 strikeouts in 62 innings, and a 1.31 ERA.

Showalter said of the status of Diaz’s rehab on Monday, “We’re waiting for the medical sign-off and then there will be a decision to be made, but that’s a good thing to think that he would be considered. That would be really exciting for everybody, but whether or not to go down that road, we’re not there yet. I think every time someone starts going there, we’re not close in that process yet, but you weigh the pros and cons of it…I would love to see him have a normal offseason.”

On if Diaz will have input on whether he pitches or not this season, “Obviously, we’ll get his opinion, and what kind of feedback he’s getting physically, but you can tell by his face and the things he’s doing that he’s pretty excited about where he is compared to where he could be. It’s just been good, knock on wood, that we haven’t had any setbacks with it, he’s been able to stay right in the process. He’s made the temptation to go faster, which we haven’t, because he’s met everything.”

STARLING MARTE: Marte has been out for three weeks since he was placed on the injured list, retroactive Sunday, August 6, with a right groin strain. It has been a season full of setbacks for Marte, who also had an injured list stint in July due to migraines he was suffering from on July 15 and 16 when the Dodgers were in town. 

It has been a tough season for Marte, and he has hit .248 with five home runs and 28 RBI in 86 games, far off the pace he set for himself last season, when he hit .292 with 16 HR and 63 RBI. 

On Monday afternoon, Showalter announced, “Starling had his first day in Philly today; that went well, still going on…physical therapy, just somebody that our trainers and doctor and medical people think very highly of and want to see him work with him. We’ve identified an idea of what it is and what it’s not.”

Showalter confirmed the focus is in the groin area and “anything that has had some scar tissue.” 

Marte will be in Philadelphia from today, Monday, through Friday before returning to New York and determining the next steps in his recovery.

Trevor Semien lacing a double to right field in the sixth inning off Tylor Megill. Photo by Jason Schott.

RANGERS 4, METS 3: Tylor Megill had a phenomenal start for the Mets against the Rangers' offense, one of the best in baseball. He went six innings, and allowed just one run (earned) on five hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts.

The Mets jumped out to an early lead against Rangers starter Jon Gray, as Brandon Nimmo hit a two-run home run to right field in the third inning, his 19th of the season. DJ Stewart then got a solo shot, his seventh of the season, in the fifth inning, to make it 3-0.

Texas got on the board in the sixth when Marcus Semien doubled and scored on a double by Aroldis Garcia.

In the eighth, the Rangers pulled within a run, at 3-2, when Corey Seager doubled and came in to score on a groundout by Robbie Grossman against Mets reliever Brooks Raley.

The Mets then turned to Trevor Gott to attempt to close it out in the ninth, and Jonah Heim singled and Ezequiel Duran doubled to open it up. Leody Tavaras and Semien then struck out, and then Seager was intentionally walked to load the bases.

The strategy didn't work as Nathaniel Lowe then laced a hit to left field to bring in Heim and Duran and make it 4-3, which would be the final.

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