Pitchers and catchers don’t officially report to spring training until Wednesday, February 17, but the Mets already have their first injury of the 2021 MLB season. Earlier this morning, the club announced on Twitter that Seth Lugo has a loose body in his right elbow and will have surgery on February 16 to correct the problem.
During his normal offseason throwing progression, a bone spur had broken off at some point, according to the team’s post. The 31-year-old right-hander informed the Mets of the injury when the inflammation wouldn’t subside, which led to an MRI that took place yesterday and that revealed the prognosis. According to the club, the surgery will be performed by Dr. David Altchek on Tuesday, and the pitcher will be shut down from throwing for six weeks. At that point, they will assess and transition into a throwing program.
Conservatively, Lugo won’t start throwing until the latter part of March, which likely means he will still need at least another month or more to ramp up be ready for the season since he will have missed most, if not all, of spring training. The Mets can expect to be without the righthander for most of the first month of the season, if not longer if there are any setbacks. The team’s bullpen is already a bit thin, so this should potentially inspire the front office to add to it before the offseason is done.
Lugo is coming off his worst major league season in 2020, although it is hard to judge given the condensed nature of the schedule and the fact that he transitioned from a reliever to a starter midway through the year. He finished with a 5.15 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, a 1.36 WHIP, and a 0.3 bWAR in seven starts and nine relief appearances for the Mets. When you separate the two, he had a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings as a relief pitcher—he generally remained the team’s best bullpen option—and a 6.15 ERA in 26.1 innings as a starter. While he was expected to possibly compete for a starting role in spring training, it was widely assumed that he would return to the bullpen full-time in 2021.
As it stands now, the team has Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Aaron Loup, Miguel Castro, and Robert Gsellman all but guaranteed spots. The club recently designated Brad Brach for assignment. The Mets have also been linked to Justin Wilson, who pitched for the team in each of the past two seasons.