ATLANTA — Mets’ right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker, last seen throwing just two innings on Tuesday night before leaving with back spasms, took some time out of his treatment to explain how he’s feeling.
“A lot better than expected,” he reported. “Tuesday, I would say, was a lot, a lot of pain. One of the worst pains I’ve ever felt. So with where I’m at today, I’m a little shocked.”
Walker said his MRI revealed a bulge in one of his discs that he immediately declared “minor” and “nothing too concerning.”
“They use a lot of big words,” Walker said of the team doctors. “I don’t know.”
Walker played catch from 60 feet on Thursday, rode the elliptical and did what he called a “modified lower body workout.” He does not know when he’ll throw a bullpen, which, under his normal routine, would have happened on Thursday. He and the Mets are not fully committed to the idea of him making his scheduled start on Sunday, but they also have not ruled it out.
“We’ve been doing a lot of treatment, a lot of exercises, just trying to stabilize the core and stuff.”
The Mets have Chris Bassitt ready to throw Friday’s game against the Phillies, and the team elected to send him to Philadelphia before Thursday’s game to avoid the potential situation of him arriving at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. After that, it will be David Peterson and Trevor Williams in some order for Saturday’s doubleheader. With Sunday being Walker’s day, the Mets are hoping that he feels well enough to pitch, otherwise it will likely be the currently rehabbing Tommy Hunter and some combination of relievers and minor-league call ups.
“It doesn’t really make sense to push it,” Walker said. “Obviously, if I’m feeling 100%, I’ll go out there. I don’t want to go out there at 90% and make it worse, then I’m on the IL and missing two, three, four weeks.”
Carlos Carrasco is already on the 15-day IL with an oblique strain that’s expected to be a three- to four-week injury. For a team fighting to stay on top of the National League East, losing another starting pitcher for any type of prolonged period is a harrowing thought.
“I think it’s important to listen to my body,” Walker offered. “Down the stretch and into the playoffs is probably when I’m most needed.”
A reporter also reminded Walker that he is 30 years old now — the big righty celebrated that milestone on Aug. 13 — and that little back issues can become much more common at that age.
“The older we get, we really have to stay on our routines,” Walker agreed. “We don’t want any more flare ups.”
METS CLAIM YOLMER SANCHEZ
In today’s roster move, the Mets picked up infielder Yolmer Sanchez off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. In the corresponding move, catcher Patrick Mazeika was designated for assignment.
Sanchez is a 30-year-old from Venezuela. His two main claims to fame are winning a Gold Glove as a second baseman for the White Sox in 2019 and leading the American League in triples in 2018. During his 44 plate appearances for the Red Sox this season, he hit .108/.214/.108. The Mets are expecting him to join the team in Philadelphia on Friday.
The switch hitter was once a regular contributor for the White Sox, appearing in over 140 games each season from 2017 to 2019. While he’s done his best defensive work at second base, Sanchez has also logged over 1,600 MLB innings at third base.
“Versatile player, switch hitter,” Buck Showalter assessed. “He can play a lot of positions and do a lot of things. He’s really well regarded in a lot of ways. We’ll see how he fits.”
Mazeika, who’s been the team’s insurance policy at catcher, hit .190 with a .515 OPS since debuting for the Mets in 2021. He now has seven days to either be traded or claimed by a different team on waivers. If neither of those happen, the Mets can either release him or send him to the minor leagues.
LONG ROAD FOR NIDO
Tomas Nido has not played at all during this series in Atlanta. He was placed on the injured list with an illness, and while the Mets have not come right out and said that it’s COVID-19, Showalter’s explanation of Nido’s travel plans basically confirms that.
“There’s a chance he may join us in Philadelphia,” Showalter updated. “I talked to him [Wednesday] and he was markedly better. I think he drove back to New York yesterday. We can’t do anything else.”
The drive from Atlanta’s Truist Park to Citi Field, likely the only option to keep Nido away from others, is about 14 hours.