After another season filled with injuries, the Mets overhauled their medical staff this past offseason.
That hasn’t stopped their disabled list from getting overcrowded already, just 53 games into 2018. But now the franchise is rethinking the way it handles those injuries once they have already happened.
“Honestly, sometimes I think we’re a little too cautious with how we approach injuries,” general manager Sandy Alderson said Thursday before the Mets opened a series against the Cubs at Citi Field. “We, as an industry I guess, but certainly here, we tend to be overly cautious. We don’t want it to happen again. We don’t want a setback. But honestly, I think at some point you have to take the risk of a setback.”
As of Thursday, the Mets had 11 players on the disabled list with varying degrees of injuries — including three who had landed there in the last four days. Five more have already come off stints on the DL this season.
The Mets named a new head trainer in January and created a new position of director of performance and sports science, and though Alderson said he was happy with their work, the injury bug has not gone away.
“From my standpoint, obviously not happy with the injury record, but at the same time, for the most part, these injuries have been the non-soft-tissue injuries that unfortunately occur from time to time,” Alderson said. “What we really are focusing on is not really prevention but managing the rehabilitation and getting these players back.”
Guarding against public criticism of how the team deals with injuries “is a natural response,” but Alderson said he believes being more aggressive could help the Mets. He said he had to look at all portions of a rehab and determine whether any of them were longer than needed. If that results in five players coming back five days early, and one facing a setback that costs him 10 more days, “you’re still ahead 15 days,” Alderson said.
“And by the way, we gotta play the game,” Alderson said. “You gotta hit the sweet spot that you’re not too overly cautious but you’re prudent. I think maybe that’s something where we need to focus a little more attention. That’s what I’m doing.”
Third baseman Todd Frazier, who has been sidelined since May 8 with a left hamstring strain, was set to begin a rehab assignment Thursday night with Triple-A Las Vegas and could be back during this nine-game homestand.
Reliever Anthony Swarzak, who pitched in just two games before straining his left oblique and going on the DL April 1, is scheduled to throw a final rehab outing Sunday and then could rejoin the team.
But the return for Yoenis Cespedes, who hit the DL on May 16 with a strained right hip flexor, is not as clear. The outfielder played through the nagging injury at the start of the month before the team decided to take matters into its own hands and get him healthy.
Alderson said he was surprised Cespedes’ injury has taken as long as it has to recover from, but that it is a “somewhat chronic” issue he may have to learn to manage.
While defending how the Mets cannot prevent every single injury, Alderson seemed to be rethinking the decision to sign Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million contract in 2016.
“Some people are more susceptible to injuries than others,” Alderson said. “Maybe you could say, ‘Well, gee, susceptible to injury, shouldn’t that have entered into some decision in the past?’ And the answer to that would be yes, in all probability. That all gets taken into account.”
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