Only two weeks old, the New York Mets’ 2018 season already has a distinctly different feel from last year’s campaign. After yet another comeback, a 4-1 victory over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday for their eighth consecutive win, the Mets extended their franchise-best start to 10-1.
And until Wednesday, the Mets’ roster has avoided a major injury, unlike a 2017 campaign that was full of them.
But that run of good fortune came to an end in the afternoon, when the team announced that catcher Travis d’Arnaud had been diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
D’Arnaud, 29, was part of a catching platoon with Kevin Plawecki. A day after complaining to the team of right elbow soreness, d’Arnaud flew to New York for examination, and in the next few days he will decide on his treatment plan, which could be rest and rehabilitation or season-ending Tommy John surgery.
“That’s tough,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route.”
But channeling the resilient attitude they have displayed this season, the Mets overcame the loss of a key player, and another deficit, to win. Buoyed late by a deep lineup, Wheeler, who was sent to the minor leagues in spring training, guided the Mets into historic territory in terms of the team’s record. And he did it in style, becoming the first Mets starter this season to complete seven innings. He allowed only one run and struck out seven.
Since at least 2015, the Mets have envisioned a rotation comprising their five young, hard-throwing starting pitchers: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler. Injuries, struggles and time have derailed those dreams, but they were briefly realized on Wednesday.
“Everybody is healthy and it was nice to get a turn,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler’s stout performance was nearly overshadowed by the Marlins rookie starter Jarlin Garcia, who held the Mets hitless through six innings. It was Garcia’s first major league start, so Marlins manager Don Mattingly pulled him after 77 pitches, opening the door for a Mets rally in the eighth inning and their sixth comeback victory of the season.
“A total team effort,” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, whose pinch-hit, two-run single gave the Mets the lead in the eighth inning. “Different guys coming up in different games.”
On Wednesday, and going forward, the catching duties will mostly fall on Plawecki. He will be backed up by Tomas Nido, who was called up from Class AA Binghamton, with Jose Lobaton, a veteran catcher at Class AAA Las Vegas, as a future possibility.
“Kevin is more than ready for this challenge, and unfortunate the way it happened but certainly an opportunity for him,” said John Ricco, the Mets’ assistant general manager.
There was nearly more bad news for the catching platoon, as Plawecki suffered a scare himself. A 98-mph fastball from the Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero hit Plawecki on the left hand in the eighth inning. He exited the game later in the frame, but X-rays did not show any breaks.
“Once I could move it right away and make a fist, it eased my mind a little bit,” Plawecki said.
It is unclear how long d’Arnaud was nursing his injury. Ricco and Callaway said they first learned of d’Arnaud’s elbow soreness on Tuesday. But Callaway had noticed d’Arnaud, who struggled to throw out base stealers over the past few years, regress at the start of the season.
Wheeler has an injury history of his own. He showed flashes of a powerful arm in 2013 and 2014, but a protracted recovery from Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2015 and 2016 seasons. His 2017 season was slowed by an upper arm injury.
After not making the major-league roster out of spring training, Wheeler headed to Las Vegas to work on shortening the path of his throwing arm on the mound. Mets officials were pleased with his first outing with Las Vegas and called him up on Wednesday to start, at least once, as Jason Vargas recovers from a hand injury.
Wheeler’s only blemish was a solo home run by Miguel Rojas in the first inning, and he drew praise from Callaway after the game for his improvements. Once Mattingly removed Garcia, Todd Frazier produced the Mets’ first hit and from that point forward, the Mets took advantage of the Marlins’ sputtering bullpen to complete the comeback and continue the team’s spectacular start to the season.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.