MIAMI — Thursday was supposed to be the triumphant opening act of the Mets’ highly anticipated 2023 season. Steven A. Cohen, the team’s billionaire owner, has committed a record $377 million to payroll, according to Spotrac, and that’s before the luxury tax bill arrived. approximately $105 million. Money doesn’t guarantee a championship, but it certainly improves the odds.
Case in point: The Miami Marlins started their ace, 2022 National League Cy Young Award-winning right-hander Sandy Alcantara, on Thursday. The Mets countered with three-time Cy Young Award-winning right-hander Max Scherzer whom Cohen lured to New York with a record annual salary before last season. But when the two stumbled, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo re-signed this offseason for $162 million over eight, who netted the game-breaking two-run double in the seventh inning of a 5- 3.
But just over two hours before the first pitch at LoanDepot Park, the Mets announced that their most high-profile addition of the offseason, the pitcher they were considering would help them go deeper into the playoffs after an early exit the year last, would start the season on the injured list. Last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander had what the team called a low-level strain of a shoulder muscle.
“It’s not how I wanted my tenure with the Mets to start, that’s for sure,” said Verlander, who signed a two-year, $87 million contract. “I put in a ton of work to make sure things like this didn’t happen.”
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He later added, “I’m very proud and I love throwing. I just want to be there and not be able to do it, especially with a new team and a new fan base, it’s just not great.
Major League Baseball’s regular season is 162 games over about six months, so there’s plenty of time. Mets general manager Billy Eppler and Verlander said magnetic resonance imaging of Verlander’s right shoulder revealed a “very minimal” injury to his teres major, a muscle that runs from the lower end of the scapula to the armpit.
During his last start to spring training, Verlander, 40, felt something minor in his side that he attributed to the usual pain of throwing and tweaking his mechanics. But the sentiment lingered until Wednesday, when he kicked off a bullpen session ahead of what was supposed to be his Mets debut on Saturday.
“The fact that I’m going to be able to keep throwing shows what a minor injury it is,” he said. “But still, there is something there. If it was a different time in the season, especially at the end of the year, I think pitching is definitely on the table. Playoffs, I definitely launch. Being the start of the season and fresh out of spring training, it just makes too much sense not to push it right now and risk three months where it could be much, much, much, much, much less than that. .
Verlander, however, isn’t the only key player the Mets are missing to start this high expectation season. Baseball’s best-closest Edwin Díaz, who the Mets re-signed to a record-breaking, five-year, $102 million deal this offseason, was set to miss the entire season after surgery to repair a patellar tendon in his knee. torn during the World Baseball Classic. Jose Quintana, the veteran left-handed starter who joined the Mets on a two-year, $26 million deal in December, could be out until the summer with a stress fracture in a rib and a lesion on the side that required surgery.
In an NL East in which the Atlanta Braves are the defending division winners and the Philadelphia Phillies are the defending pennant winners, the Mets have little room for error. The massive spending, Eppler pointed out, was part of Cohen’s plan to make the Mets contenders when he took over as owner. His goal is to stick to a high-spend strategy as the farm system is replenished so that going forward, the team can use free agency “a bit more like a luxury rather than a necessity.” “.
So it’s time to build on the Mets’ accumulated depth. Tylor Megill, who had a 5.13 ERA last year, will step out of Class AAA and replace three-time Cy Young Award winner Verlander. David Peterson, who starts Game 2 of the season for the Mets on Friday, will fill the Quintana void. And in terms of closing, Showalter said he would rely on multiple relievers, but he pointed out veteran right-hander David Robertson, another off-season addition, had the most experience in the role. (Robertson got the stoppage on Thursday.)
“I’ve never been part of a team from start to finish, no matter how good a team, whether it’s a World Series winning team or a playoff team. or whatever, who hasn’t dealt with injuries throughout the season,” Verlander said. “It just seems to have accumulated a bit at the very beginning of the season. But maybe we’re eliminating all of that now.
Showalter said the Mets didn’t dwell on recent misfortunes, and he insisted Verlander’s injury didn’t spoil the excitement of the opening day. He didn’t deny that this season was a World Series or a bust for the team with the biggest financial commitment in history.
“That’s why we dress up,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. The Marlins too. The same goes for the Washington Nationals, Braves and Philadelphia. It’s going to be hard. It was tough last year. It will be tough this year. What happened, the good and the bad last year, we start from scratch.