Matz will miss spring start because of elbow tenderness

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz has been scratched from his next start because of tenderness in his left elbow, putting his status for opening day in doubt.

Matz had been scheduled to throw Monday in a minor league game.

''There's a little irritation, and he's got to work that out,'' Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday. ''We don't think it's anything significant, but it bothers him on extension. He won't pitch tomorrow, and we'll see where that takes him over the next four or five days.''

Alderson said the problem has bothered Matz for ''a period of time.''

While Matz hasn't been sent for an MRI, Alderson said the ailment is troubling because the 25-year-old has often been slowed during his two seasons with the Mets.

''It's worrisome that he continues to be injured off and on. That's the difficulty,'' Alderson said.

Matz was 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 22 starts last year, but was shut down in September and had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow.

The Mets open the season April 3 at home against Atlanta.

Matz gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings against Miami on Wednesday. He is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts this spring.

Matz said the discomfort flared up before that last start and continued during the game. He said he notified the trainers afterward when more soreness than usual lingered.

''It's just a little tenderness and a little setback,'' said Matz, who will have a lighter workout on Monday and participate in long toss.

''I think I'll be fine. I think I'll be good to go. I'll resume throwing and try to jump back in it,'' he said.

Manager Terry Collins said he was ''extremely disappointed'' to hear the news, saying he couldn't imagine Matz would be ready for the season's start if he missed this week.

''We had a backup plan, and we're going to turn to that backup plan right now. We're just lucky we have some pretty good pitching,'' Collins said.

Matz had been set to pitch Monday on the back fields while Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo worked in split-squad games.

A prolonged injury to Matz, the lone left-handed starter, would create at least one spot for either Robert Gsellman or Lugo. Those righties have been mentioned as a replacement for Wheeler, who is also an option in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2015.

The performances by Gsellman and Lugo late last year was enough to convince Collins that they belong in the rotation. Plus, Lugo was very good in the World Baseball Classic.

''They pitched games when the real bright lights were on against big teams that were trying to beat us while we were fighting in a pennant race,'' Collins said.

''That, to me, spoke a lot more about them than anything they've done down here,'' he said.

The pressure point likely turns to Wheeler, who is scheduled to throw 80 pitches in a start against Miami on Monday. Having only seen Wheeler once in a game so far, Collins will board the team bus and make the trip south to Jupiter to watch Wheeler.

NOTES: The Mets expect to get results Monday on the MRI of center fielder Juan Lagares' strained left oblique. He was hurt Saturday, and Collins said he would turn to lefty-hitting Michael Conforto if Lagares needs time off. ''If Juan's hurt, Mike's the best option we have,'' Collins said. ... Collins praised the work of RHP Matt Harvey, who gave up two runs in six innings in an 8-2 win over Atlanta. ''I'm very pleased. He's been feeling better every time out. I thought he was very impressive today,'' Collins said. ... Jose Reyes tripled, doubled and singled. Asdrubal Cabrera and Kevin Plawecki each had two hits. ... Collins said LHP Josh Smoker's sharp spring (1.50 ERA in 12 innings) makes him ''a heavy favorite to make our club.''

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