James McCann thought his sore left wrist was not a big deal, but an X-ray on Friday revealed otherwise.
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The Mets catcher has a fractured hamate and will undergo surgery, the team announced Friday. The typical timeline for recovery is six weeks, according to the Mets, though manager Buck Showalter added that McCann’s absence could be shorter or longer than that.
“It’s tough,” Showalter said. “I know how much Mac likes being on the club and contributing and being a part of it. But we’re going to see him again and he’s going to be contributing again.”
Tomas Nido started Friday night against the Mariners and Patrick Mazeika was called up from Triple-A Syracuse to serve as his backup. The Mets’ top prospect, catcher Francisco Alvarez, was not a realistic option to replace McCann. Alvarez is still only 20 years old and 20-plus games into his first season at Double-A Binghamton.
McCann, who was batting .196 with a .551 OPS in 21 games this season, was held out of the lineup Thursday against the Nationals because of wrist soreness. McCann attributed it to normal wear and tear and said he expected to be back on Friday.
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Showalter also expected to have McCann in his lineup Friday when the Mets left Washington. But after McCann’s wrist had not improved as much as they had hoped following the rest on Thursday, the Mets decided to send him for a precautionary X-ray on Friday morning.
The Mets have not been able to pinpoint how or when McCann first sustained the injury, but they were trying to learn more in case it could have been prevented. Showalter pointed to a recent pair of plays in which McCann’s left hand might have taken a hit — one that was called catcher’s interference, one that was not — but relayed that McCann said those had nothing to do with it.
“I know he’s been taking a lot of extra work in [batting practice] trying to get his swing going,” Showalter said. “I don’t know.”
Over his last nine games, McCann was batting 7-for-24 (.292) with a .641 OPS. But his bigger contributions came behind the plate, where his five defensive runs saved (per FanGraphs) were the best among all MLB catchers entering Friday. The veteran has also built a strong rapport with his pitching staff, which brought a 3.29 ERA into Friday, the fourth-best mark in the majors.
Instead, the Mets will likely lean on Nido — another defense-minded catcher who entered Friday batting .204 with a .445 OPS — though Showalter said Mazeika will get some starts as well, including potentially on Saturday.
“I’m hoping that it’s pretty seamless, but we’ll see,” Showalter said. “Pitchers like throwing to [McCann] and Tomas and I think they will with Mazeika also.”
Mazeika spent 37 games with the Mets last season, though his call-ups were better remembered for his unlikely hitting in the clutch — including a pair of walk-offs in one week. He also has some experience with this year’s pitching staff after catching them in spring training.
“It’s why we gave him a lot of time in spring so we were equipped for things like this,” Showalter said. “We’ll get him in there and see what kind of load he can carry for us. I’m pretty familiar with him from the spring, but there’s still a whole different look from the big league speed of a regular season game compared to spring. We’ll see.”
McCann, meanwhile, joined an injured list that already includes pitchers Jacob deGrom (stress reaction on right scapula), Trevor May (stress reaction on humerus) and Sean Reid-Foley (Tommy John surgery).
“Harmony’s not the absence of problems, it’s just the ability to deal with them,” Showalter said. “So nobody cares [outside of the Mets], It’s an opportunity for Mazeika now.”