The Mets may have found the reason for Steven Matz’s mysterious second-half plummet.
According to an industry source, the left-hander was examined recently for a possible ulnar nerve issue in his left elbow that could require season-ending surgery. Matz, who received a shot Monday that necessitates him resting for at least 48 hours, has been scratched from his Tuesday start against the Diamondbacks and is likely to be placed on the disabled list, according to manager Terry Collins.
The source added that Matz’s condition may be similar to what Jacob deGrom experienced last summer, when his performance mysteriously nosedived before he underwent surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. DeGrom had the surgery in September and began spring training on a normal schedule.
Matz, who is 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA, joins Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo among the Mets’ starting pitchers either hurting or on the rehab trail. Robert Gsellman recently returned from the disabled list after missing six weeks with a strained hamstring.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson declined to address Matz’s status before Monday’s game at Citi Field, saying through a team spokesman he wanted to wait until he had all the medical information.
“I think it’s something [Matz] has had to deal with and we felt this was the best time to address it,” Collins said. “I am sure some of the issues have kept him from being the pitcher we know he can be.”
The 26-year-old Matz began the season on the disabled list with elbow discomfort and didn’t make his season debut until June 10. Last year he pitched with a significant bone spur in his left elbow that was removed after the season. Matz also had left shoulder tightness last August that landed him on the disabled list, ending his season.
Matz was effective for the Mets upon his return from the disabled list this season, but has struggled over his last eight starts, dating to July 9. Over that stretch he is 0-6 with a 10.19 ERA and opponents are hitting .385 against him with seven homers.
Syndergaard (lat tear), Harvey (stress injury to the scapula), Wheeler (stress reaction in his arm) and Lugo (shoulder impingement) have kept the Mets from assembling anything close to a whole rotation for most of the season.
And so the Mets have been forced to use the likes of Chris Flexen, Rafael Montero and Tommy Milone — who will replace Matz in the rotation on Tuesday — to get through the season.
“If there was one common denominator, it’s something that can be fixed,” Collins said. “But this just tells you anything can happen at any time, there [are] no guarantees in this game.
“There’s no guarantees, especially with young, power pitching, that you are going to say these guys are all going to be healthy throughout the season. We came into this season saying we were prepared for it, because we had seven guys. Five of them went down. I just think you need to keep as much pitching around as you possibly can because you never know when you are going to need it.”