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Jeurys Familia Is Hurt, Because He’s a Met

Last year’s saves leader joins New York’s ever-growing injury list

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Mets closer Jeurys Familia blew a save on Wednesday, allowing four runs (three earned) while recording just one out in an eventual 6–5 loss to the Giants. Familia was initially shaky upon his return to New York in mid-April from a 15-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy, allowing six walks in his first four appearances, but he had seemingly settled back into All-Star form of late; Wednesday’s outing saw him give up a run for the first time since April 27.

But looking beyond the surface stats reveals that Familia still hadn’t been pitching at his previous level. In five appearances in May spanning 61 pitches, he had induced just one swinging strike — from the slumping Dansby Swanson on May 1 — making for an unprecedented lack of whiffs from last year’s MLB saves leader. On Thursday, we learned why: Familia was diagnosed with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder, and he will see Dr. Robert Thompson, who performed Matt Harvey’s thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last year, for further tests. The timetable for his return is unknown, and the Mets say surgery is possible.

When the Mets’ early-season narrative hasn’t centered on a Harvey pajama investigation, it’s flowed from injury to debilitating injury. Familia will join, among others, Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Céspedes, Travis d’Arnaud, and Lucas Duda on the disabled list. Neither David Wright nor Steven Matz has played this season, and some of the players still on the active roster are hobbled and probably should be placed on the DL. Familia’s previous absence this season was not injury-related, as his suspension stemmed from his allegedly drunkenly bruising his wife’s face and scratching her chest last October, and there is undoubtedly a portion of the Mets’ fan base that won’t miss having to cheer for even his tangential success.

As it pertains to the Mets’ contention hopes, Familia’s loss, while untimely for a team already missing about half its optimal roster, isn’t as ruinous as Baltimore’s extended loss of Zach Britton. (Between Britton, Familia, and the Giants’ Mark Melancon reaching the disabled list, the Tigers’ Francisco Rodríguez losing his closing job for performance reasons, and the Nationals’ ongoing cycle among ninth-inning options, it’s been a week of bullpen instability across the majors.) Addison Reed should resume closing duties after successfully converting four saves in Familia’s absence in April, and Hansel Robles, Josh Edgin, and Jerry Blevins, who have provided shutdown relief innings thus far by combining for a 1.40 ERA in 45 innings, will also shift into higher-leverage roles.

Even after Familia’s blown save on Wednesday, the Mets have a 16–17 record and have won four consecutive series, and with other prospective NL contenders struggling, just that bit of winning play boosted them right back into the crowded middle of the standings. With Washington playing like the best team in baseball, the NL East title might already be out of reach, but a wild-card berth remains attainable, and while the Mets’ bullpen depth is no longer a strength, it’s reliable enough to keep the team afloat. At any rate, with the rotation relying on unknown Triple-A arms and Curtis Granderson posting the worst park-adjusted batting line in the NL, the Mets have bigger long-term problems to worry about than a reshuffling of relieving roles.

Still, losing Familia furthers the Mets’ reputation as a hapless, blundering franchise full of perpetually injured players. At this point, a team of injured Mets might be favored against a team of healthy Mets in a seven-game series; that’s not quite the recipe for a club with World Series aspirations.