Pitcher Jon Niese of the New York Mets left today’s preseason game against the St. Louis Cardinals with elbow discomfort in his left (throwing) arm. This is the latest in a series of arm maladies suffered by Niese over the past year.
Last June, he was diagnosed with a partial tear of this rotator cuff. Remarkably, he managed to return to the team without surgery two months later. This spring, he experience shoulder discomfort. An MRI revealed no structural damage, only a weak muscle group around his scapula. Today’s injury is something new in that it deals with the elbow.
This is pure speculation, but sometimes you see pitchers injure another part of the arm while favoring a previous injury.
Until the official diagnosis comes along, we won’t know how this affects the Mets’ pitching staff, but if this is a serious elbow injury, the team will have to shuffle its starting rotation. The good news is, this is one area New York actually has depth.
Coming into the season, the Mets’ rotation was probably going to consist of Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka. If Niese isn’t available for opening day (or the rest of the season), Jenrry Mejia will probably replace him in the rotation. Mejia is currently competing for the fifth starter job.
The Mets could also choose to put Mejia in the bullpen and insert prospect Rafael Montero into the rotation. Their No. 1 pitching prospect, Noah Syndergaard, would still remain in the minors as planned. He would be a candidate for promotion around June of this year, which would keep him under team control for an extra year.
This would leave the Mets without a left-hander in the rotation. If manager Terry Collins and the front office want to replace Niese with another southpaw, they could use John Lannan. He is currently a favorite to be in the opening day bullpen.
While the Mets have depth in the rotation, the potential loss of Niese would give the Mets fewer trade chips to fill the gaping hole at shortstop. New York had been interested in Seattle Mariners shortstop-second baseman Nick Franklin. An injury to Niese would make a trade like that far less likely.