New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz missed a start due to “shoulder discomfort.” It is the latest chapter in a series of malaise for the young fireballer that could — and should — have been prevented.
Before we get into this year’s injury timeline, let’s establish the baseline.
Steven Matz was drafted and signed by the New York Mets in 2009. During instructional league in spring 2010, he tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery on May 18, 2010. Due to several setbacks in rehabilitation post-surgery, Matz did not throw a professional pitch in a game until 2012.
Immediately following Matz’s June 28, 2015 MLB debut, he complained of “tightness” in his lat muscle. Despite this, he pitched again on July 5th. Afterward, the lat issue progressed and he was diagnosed with a torn lat that resulted in a two-month DL stint.
May 9 – after his sixth start of the season, Matz experiences “forearm tightness.” He admitted to “extra massaging” his forearm in between innings of that start. He reportedly played catch on May 12 and skipped his May 14 start.
May 16 – Matz sees doctors, who pronounce that the lefthander has “no structural damage” in his elbow. He takes his next turn in the rotation on May 20.]
June 24 – Matz allows six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves, the worst team in MLB in nearly every offensive category.
June 27 – Suffering lingering pain in his elbow, Matz undergoes an MRI that reveals a bone spur, but, according to New York Newsday:
Matz’s bone spur is not in an area that “poses a threat to the ligament,” which is a sliver of encouraging news.
While an MRI exam on Monday in New York revealed that there are no issues with the ligament, and the rest of Matz’s elbow appears structurally sound, the bone spur is causing pain, which itself has proved to be a complication.
Matz’s reaction to the news, from the same Newsday article:
“I know the peace of mind that there is nothing structurally wrong,” said Matz, who is 7-3 with a 3.29 ERA, though his performances have trended downward in the last month. “And the doctor said the ligament and everything was great, so that peace of mind is great to have . . . It’s just something that I’m going to have to battle through.”
The article ended with this:
Matz complained of elbow tightness after his start on Friday, when he nearly coughed up an 8-0 lead, allowing six runs while getting chased in the fifth.
Matz acknowledged that he was unable to properly finish his pitches, though he stopped short of pinning it on his elbow tightness.
Said Matz: “It’s hard for me to say.”
June 30 – In his first start after receiving news of the bone spur, Matz allows three runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings vs. the Cubs. From Newsday‘s postgame report:
“We gave him some anti-inflammatories before the game started,” manager Terry Collins said. “He knows he can pitch through this.”
Matz, who threw 104 pitches and felt no pain afterward, said he felt “a little relief. But this is something I’ve been dealing with. I knew what to expect.”
June 7 – August 9 – In the 12 starts since Matz’s elbow issue was revealed, his record was 1-7 with a 4.54 ERA, a stark contrast to his first 9 starts previous, when he went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA.
August 18 – A New York Times article focuses on Steven Matz’s ability to pitch effectively with a bone spur in his elbow. It is mentioned, among other things, that Matz has been receiving anti-inflammatories to manage the pain, and the Mets have been using “Trackman” technology to ensure that Matz’s pitching motion did not change since the injury:
Doctors reassured Mets officials and Matz that he would not further damage his elbow or his ulnar collateral ligament, which was replaced through Tommy John surgery in 2010, if he continued to pitch with the bone spur. He would just have to deal with the pain.
“He’s pitching through it with the help of medication and a good, sturdy frame of mind,” Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ general manager, said earlier this month. “He’s been critical over the last few weeks and is going to be critical over the last eight to 10 weeks if we’re going to make headway. I applaud him for what he’s done, and gotten through what he has.”
Matz said he had used anti-inflammatory medication as needed to help with any discomfort. Both Matz and Alderson said they had no concerns about using the medication repeatedly to keep Matz on the mound because it was not excessive. Manager Terry Collins pointed out that many players had regularly relied on anti-inflammatory medication.
Collins said the Mets had used TrackMan, a system that uses radar to measure movement on the field, to make sure the release point in Matz’s delivery had not changed.
“You don’t worry about the bone spur getting worse,” Collins said. “You worry about another part of the arm getting worse because he’s adjusting to the elbow issue.”
August 19 – It is revealed that Matz has “shoulder discomfort” and will miss his next scheduled start.
August 22 – An MRI shows “no structural damage” to Matz’s shoulder. He is placed on the disabled list as a “precautionary measure,” according to the Mets.
In an upcoming post and podcast, we will discuss all the opportunities Matz had to keep his arm healthy, based on the above timeline.