Mets Catcher James McCann Nearing Return From IL

Mets starting catcher James McCann (back spasms) is nearing a return from the IL. Plus updates on Brad Hand, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Publish date:

The Mets are inching closer to getting one of their top two catchers back from the injured list.

James McCann (back spasms), who has been on the IL since August 17, is going through running progressions and could rejoin the team over the weekend for their series with the Nationals in Washington D.C., per manager Luis Rojas.

In McCann's absence, backup Tomas Nido has also endured two separate IL stints with a sprained thumb. Although Nido was activated last Friday and recorded a single in his first start behind the dish, he ultimately went back on the shelf after just three games, as his thumb flared up again.

Without their top two options behind the backstop, the Mets have had to turn to folk hero Patrick Mazeika, who is better known for his two walk-off dribblers back in May, as well as Chance Sisco. Mazeika has gotten the bulk of the playing time during this span and has hit an anemic .147/.256/.176 with zero RBIs.

Prior to McCann landing on the IL, he had been in a serious funk at the plate, going 9 for his last 50 (.180) with a .212 OBP. Regardless, the Mets will welcome him back with open arms due to the lesser production they have been receiving without him. 

Once McCann returns, Mazeika will assume a backup role and Sisco will likely be optioned. 

The Mets signed McCann to a four-year, $40 million deal in the offseason, but he has endured a disappointing campaign. In 99 games, McCann is slashing .240/.303/.357 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. 

Lending A Helping Hand

According to Rojas, newly acquired left-handed reliever Brad Hand, who the Mets claimed off waivers this afternoon, will likely join the team by Friday.

Hand was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline, but had a 7.27 ERA in 11 appearances, which led to Toronto's decision to release him last week.

Despite Hand's rough season, which has seen him struggle between the Nationals and Blue Jays with a 4.21 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 52 appearances, Rojas is excited by the addition of him.

"It's an upgrade for us...sending a message to us , the team and the whole Mets nation out there that we're fighting for this," Rojas told reporters via zoom.

Rojas also mentioned Hand, a southpaw, as someone who has high-leverage experience that could get some big left-handed batters out during the middle innings of relief for the Mets.

Of course, if Hand can rediscover his once dominant form, his workload may increase into pitching in big spots, late in games again. But for now, the Mets are taking it slow with the 31-year-old, who has fallen off a cliff, despite leading the American League in saves last season.

If the Mets qualify for the postseason, Hand will be ineligible to be on the playoff roster since he was acquired after the September 1 deadline.

A Message From Sandy

In the wake of the Zack Scott DWI fiasco, which got the acting general manager placed on administrative leave indefinitely, president of baseball ops Sandy Alderson will assume his responsibilities.

As Rojas revealed prior to the Mets-Marlins game on Thursday, Alderson came to the ballpark early this morning and addressed the coaching and performance staff. Alderson let them know that he will make it a habit of being around the team more often.

When Alderson was initially brought back to the team under new owner Steve Cohen last fall, he was expected to serve as the president of the entire organization. But when Cohen was unable to find the right candidate to be his president of baseball ops, Sandy took over this role. Now, in addition to running all baseball operations, Alderson will become the Mets' GM again, a position he served in previously for this team from 2011-18.

DeGrom & Syndergaard

The Mets have continued to take things slowly with their ace Jacob deGrom (right elbow inflammation), as he is still only playing catch with just 30 games left in the regular season and time running out.

As Rojas noted, deGrom has progressed to playing catch from about 100-feet, but there is no set date yet as to when he can begin throwing off the slope.

Regarding Noah Syndergaard (Covid), he is throwing against his mattress in his apartment and Rojas is unsure of when he will be cleared to resume his rehab assignment.

Syndergaard threw his first rehab outing last Thursday on August 26. And while he was scheduled to make his second appearance on Sunday, he tested positive for Covid-19. 

The plan is for the right-hander to return to the Mets as a relief pitcher this season. Once he is cleared to resume pitching, he shouldn't need too many more outings before rejoining the big-league club since he is not being stretched out as a starter.

Roster Move

Despite calling up outfielder Khalil Lee when rosters expanded on September 1, the Mets optioned him back to Triple-A on Thursday. The Mets recalled right-handed pitcher Yennsy Diaz to take Lee's spot.